Should fa­therly love be phys­i­cal?

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By David Lee

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.

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