De­bate over ac­ci­dent shows ‘cri­sis of trust’, ex­perts say

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By HOU LIQIANG houliqiang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A “cri­sis of trust” fu­eled a heated dis­cus­sion over now- dis­proved re­ports that a Chi­nese woman in­ten­tion­ally threw her­self in front of a for­eigner’s mo­tor­bike on Tues­day to ex­tort money from him, ex­perts say.

The woman, sur­named Li, was knocked over by a for­eigner when she was on a pedes­trian cross­walk in Bei­jing’s Chaoyang dis­trict on Mon­day morn­ing. The woman and the for­eigner then ar­gued while many by­standers looked on.

The woman was taken to a hos­pi­tal af­ter po­lice ar­rived. The for­eigner later gave the woman 1,800 yuan ($295) as com­pen­sa­tion in the hos­pi­tal.

Mean­while, a pho­tog­ra­pher who hap­pened to pass by took pic­tures of the for­eigner and the woman while they were ar­gu­ing and up­loaded them to an online photo plat­form.

Though the pho­tog­ra­pher didn’t see the ac­ci­dent, he wrote in the pho­tos’ cap­tions that the woman fell when a for­eigner passed her on his mo­tor­bike and asked the for­eigner to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for her fall when the for­eigner came back to help her.

The pic­tures soon aroused much at­ten­tion and be­came the hottest topic on Sina Weibo, a pop­u­lar mi­cro-blog­ging ser­vice.

The pho­tos showed the woman hold­ing the mo­tor­bike and try­ing to pre­vent the for­eigner from leav­ing. One pic­ture showed that the woman had torn the for­eigner’s coat.

The post also said the woman’s hos­pi­tal ex­am­i­na­tion showed that she wasn’t in­jured at all.

Many ne­ti­zens sub­se­quently crit­i­cized the woman, say­ing she “lost face for all Chi­nese”.

But their feel­ings changed when it was learned that the for­eigner had re­ally knocked the woman down.

Videos that showed the for­eigner curs­ing and swear­ing at the woman in English and Man­darin were also up­loaded to the In­ter­net.

The for­eigner was driv­ing an un­li­censed mo­tor­bike and in­jured Li, Bei­jing po­lice said, adding that they con­fis­cated the mo­tor­bike.

In an in­ter­view with Bei­jing News, Li said she was an­gry about the online com­ments di­rected against her.

“I never in­tended to ex­tort the for­eigner. I only be­came emo­tional af­ter the for­eigner said I was try­ing to ex­tort him,” she said.

Wang Sixin, pro­fes­sor at Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Univer­sity of China, said the in­ci­dent, which is ac­tu­ally not a big deal, cre­ated so much con­cern be­cause of a “cri­sis of trust”.

The in­ci­dent is a re­minder of sim­i­lar cases in which sup­pos­edly good Sa­mar­i­tans who of­fered help to peo­ple in need were then held re­spon­si­ble.

For­eign­ers are usu­ally con­sid­ered hon­est, and the stereo­type caused peo­ple to blame the woman, Wang said.

Wang said the spread of the in­ci­dent in mi­cro blogs just sparked peo­ple’s anger over such cases be­fore.

The in­ci­dent is a les­son to ne­ti­zens that pic­tures, of­ten shot from de­ceiv­ing an­gles, may not tell the whole story and they should be care­ful be­fore draw­ing con­clu­sions, he said.

“Peo­ple should be aware that there may be other pos­si­bil­i­ties,” Wang said.

Yu Hai, so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai, said peo­ple con­sid­ered the orig­i­nal de­scrip­tion of the in­ci­dent true as they made judg­ments based on sim­i­lar cases that had hap­pened be­fore, and the in­volve­ment of a for­eigner sparked more anger, Yu said.

But Yu said that one shouldn’t blame ne­ti­zens too much for their faulty judg­ment. The ne­ti­zens’ re­sponse sent a sig­nal that Chi­nese dis­dain dis­hon­esty and that’s a plus to some ex­tent, Yu said.

Yu said the pho­tog­ra­pher who first pub­lished the story should be blamed.

“He added in­for­ma­tion with his imag­i­na­tion to give the story a dra­matic twist to draw peo­ple’s at­ten­tion,” Yu said.

The pho­tog­ra­pher pub­lished a let­ter of apol­ogy to Li on Bei­jing News’ web­site on Wed­nes­day evening, say­ing he “used im­pre­cise, not de­tailed, bi­ased and ex­ag­ger­ated de­scrip­tions, which led to tur­moil on the In­ter­net.

“I now re­al­ize I was wrong,” he wrote.

HUANG YUE / FOR CHINA DAILY

Li cries at home while be­ing in­ter­viewed, say­ing she felt an­gry af­ter view­ing online com­ments.

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