Chinese struggle to practice kindness

BEIJING — How do you turn Bad Samaritans good?

The question has become a national obsession ever since the shocking death of a 2-year-old named Yueyue who was ignored by 18 passers-by as she lay bleeding on the street after a hit-and-run last month in southern China.

Nearly every day brings a fresh outrage — an 88-year-old man suffocating in his own blood after falling and breaking a nose, people rushing to photograph a suicide attempt without bothering to help — and another hand-wringing editorial about how to cultivate the kindness of strangers.

The latest example came Wednesday, when a 5-year-old boy playing on the sidewalk was struck by a wooden beam that had fallen from a construction site in the city of Linyi in the eastern province of Shandong. His mother begged motorists and bystanders to help bring him to a hospital, but all refused — including the low-level municipal police, who drove by and ignored her, according to local media.

An ambulance eventually arrived, but the boy, named Longlong, died on his way to the hospital.

In almost every province, laws are being revised to indemnify Good Samaritans against being sued if their efforts fail — one of the main reasons Chinese say they are reluctant to get involved.

Groups with names such as China Kindness and Filial Piety Special Committee and the Office of National Spiritual Civilization have launched special projects to encourage better behavior.

"Trust is one of the hottest topics at the moment," said Wu Yilin, a pollster at Beijing's Renmin University of China. Her department has been surveying people about the degree to which they would help a total stranger. In a poll shortly before the hit-and-run, 64.8 percent of Chinese said they would help an elderly stranger who had fallen, with those refusing saying they feared getting into trouble.

"We in China are very close to our parents and our families, but there is no trust in strangers," Wu said.

The lack of charitable spirit in China is supported by a poll released in April by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Based on polling data from Gallup, it shows China second from the bottom in a list of 40 countries ranked for "pro-social behavior": giving to charity, volunteering time and helping strangers.

Only Greece had a lower ranking. The United States tied with Ireland at the top of the list.