Should fatherly love be physical?
Anational debate is raging about father-daughter relations in China after a vomit-inducing video went viral in October showing a father touching and kissing his young daughter on a train as the girl apparently tries to refuse the father’s intense intimacy. The man then pulls up the little girl’s clothing to reveal her upper body, then places his hand down into her pants. The whole incident took place on a crowded train and was captured on video by a passenger.
The Weibo blogger who shared the video complained to the authorities about the incident, who investigated and confirmed that the adult man is the girl’s father. However, the police also announced via their official social media account that the case does not constitute sex abuse or child molestation, so there will be no charges made against the man.
Given the online uproar that followed the police’s unusual decision, what I want to talk about is the universal issue of father-daughter relations, particularly the question of physical boundaries when it comes to fatherly affections.
Traditionally, the Chinese have always been a modest society, shy of showing physical intimacy even between family members. Until the turn of the century, most Chinese people still greeted each other using only body gestures. In traditional Chinese families, a typical Chinese father is serious, hard-working, speaks seldom and is revered from afar by his children.
The viral video shared online is a far cry from this. The way this man is fondling and kissing his daughter – and out in public – is totally against traditional Chinese family values, as it completely contradicts contemporary social mores. If this father is in fact just “having fun” with his daughter and not actually trying to molest her, it is still an unhealthy approach to parenting.
What worries me even more is that the man was not alone with his daughter. Two women are present at the scene. The police didn’t say anything about them, but judging from the video, they seem to be the girl’s mother and grandmother. Neither intervened as the girl squirmed and complained about her father’s “tickling,” even though it was happening right before their eyes.
In China, most family matters are treated as private matters, not to be intervened or interfered with by the public nor public authorities. Even an upright official finds it hard to settle a family quarrel, as the traditional Chinese saying goes. However, thanks to modern technology and the quickthinking of the camera-person, this matter is now anything but private.
Even if no criminal charges are filed against the father, help and support are all just one click away for this poor girl should she choose to come forward about her father’s unwanted sexual advances and psychological counseling or peer support from other sexual abuse victims.
I’m not talking about legality or the ethics behind the police’s bizarre decision to not press any criminal charges against this pervert. But as a person rightfully concerned about the health of our society – and that of any family as a fundamental component of society – I urge for timely intervention to be made for this girl before her father decides that he can get away with even worse abuse in private than he did in public.