Help helpers to help more people

Updated: 2014-08-13 07:46

By Wu Yixue (China Daily)

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If you are a resident of Southwest China's Sichuan province and have the tendency to come to people's rescue, you'd better be careful the next time you risk your life to save others. To put it more correctly, the local authorities in Sichuan will recognize you as a good Samaritan for your selfless act of courage only if you help a stranger within the province. For people who cannot help coming to the rescue of others, this could be a moral punishment.

Sun Chuan, 51, died while trying to save an acquaintance from drowning in the sea off Sri Lanka's coast in late July. Anyone would laud Sun for his supreme sacrifice, but not Sichuan local officials. When Sun's family members approached the officials in Chengdu of Sichuan to seek a posthumous "good Samaritan's title" for him, they were told that it could not be given for two reasons: the incident didn't take place in Sichuan and Sun didn't save a stranger, but an acquaintance.

A Sichuan provincial regulation says a "good Samaritan's title" can be awarded only to people who ignore their own safety to protect State or collective interests or other people's life or property, or those who courageously fight various kinds of crimes or work for disaster relief. But local officials told Sun's family members that the regulation only applied to incidents that take place within the province and for acts to help strangers, not acquaintances.

Help helpers to help more people

The reasoning is absurd. Would a good Samaritan ascertain which province he/she is in or who he/she is about to help before coming to a person's rescue? Going by Sichuan provincial authorities' logic, should a person about to help a person in need turn a blind eye when he/she realizes that it's a friend, not a stranger, in danger? Or should an altruist desist from helping others outside his own province?

To encourage more people to fight crimes or offer help to those in need, especially during emergencies, and spread the message of altruism across the country, almost all local governments have established the "good Samaritan's award", which carries a "certificate of honor" and sometimes cash prize. The award is more of a spiritual encouragement for people to help others and safeguard national property at a time when people are becoming increasingly self-centered and indifferent to others' needs.

While condemning passers-by who refuse to offer a helping hand to senior citizens who stumble and fall on roads or other public places - although, to a certain extent, such indifference could be attributed to people's fear of being blackmailed by the "victims" - we should also reflect on whether we have a sound legal system to honor those who always come forward to help others.

Some good Samaritans who have been blackmailed by the "victims" or suffered physical injuries and lost their ability to work have failed to get either moral or material support from society and are living a deplorable life.

Good Samaritans have the tendency to help others without thinking of the consequences; they are not used to calculations nor do they think of material or spiritual rewards before jumping to someone's help. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government, rather society as whole, not to condemn such people to a pitiful life once they suffer grievous injuries. Also, the families of good Samaritans who sacrifice their lives while saving others should get awards.

Sichuan officials' refusal to confer the "good Samaritan's title" on Sun reflects the lack of social justice as well as exposes the defects of local regulations. Therefore, the authorities have to take measures to ensure that after a good Samaritan sheds blood, his/her family is not made to shed tears.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. wuyixue@chinadaily.com.cn.

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