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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blood On All of Our Hands

One of 18 passers by who ignored Yue Yue as she lay bleeding and unconscious in the street

 I was so appalled by the following incident i wrote the following oped, which I have submitted to Hong Kong's 'South China Morning Post'... Marcus

This week within and beyond China observers have been shocked at images of passers by strolling past the still body of a two year old girl, lying unconscious in a small street in Foshan, Guangdong.
Neither of the two drivers who ran over the little girl stopped to help. The first driver got out of the car, then convinced that he had not been seen, drove away. Later he called the parents, refusing to hand himself in, but offering cash. After being arrested he defended his actions, saying that he only did what everyone else in China would have done in the same circumstances. The horrifying possibility is that there may be some truth in what he said.
Rightfully, both the media and the blogosphere in China have expressed outrage at the incident. Just how did society reach such a point whereby the only person willing to help a dying child in the street was, perhaps prophetically, a garbage lady?
The story has also led news bulletins in western countries. Condemnation on the internet by casual observers has been strong. Some of that criticism has been directed in strong terms at China and its devaluation of human life and dignity. Yet while this is a crucial element of the story, such a response misses the essential point. The tragedy of little Yue Yue is not merely a Chinese problem. It is a story which reaches right into the heart of the global economic system. It begs us to ask the question of what kind of future we wish to live in.

 Yue Yue lies comatose in hospital. She is not expected to live

The recent passing of Steve Jobs was met with strong appreciation for the brilliantly creative life he lived. Yet the iPhones that made his company the second richest on the planet were developed with the aid of exploited labourers in China, via outsourcing to Foxconn. There have been numerous reports alleging appalling working conditions at Foxconn factories, leading to dozens of worker suicides. Nationalists in China have pointed the finger at Apple, suggesting that the situation is yet another example of western exploitation of China. Yet it is China’s two hundred million immigrant workers who have made the Chinese economic miracle possible. It is the very fact that these people have been denied basic workers’ rights that has allowed the Chinese middle class to enjoy the benefits of China’s meteoric rise.
In nineteenth century England, workers, including children, were treated as cheap sources of labour. The novels of Charles Dickens told of dirty and abused children, tormented workers and greedy, heartless bosses. A Tale of Two Cities features a scene where a horse and carriage carrying a nobleman runs over and kills a child on a city street. The rich man throws money at the grieving parent and drives off.
It is all too spookily familiar.
How did we reach a situation in today’s China where human compassion has all but evaporated? Many have pointed to the ‘Nanjing judge’ factor, referring to a case where a good Samaritan was victimised and exploited by the woman he assisted. That incident, however, was five years ago, and Yue Yue-like stories have been circulating around China’s internet for far longer than that. The Yue Yue tragedy was unique only in that a CCTV camera caught the incident, and it was permitted to be circulated in the media and blogosphere.
At the heart of the Yue Yue story lie deep questions, and they are ultimately spiritual and moral questions. It was a spiritual teacher who once pointed out to me that there is a price to pay for everything. China’s obsession with economic growth, and the fixation of its  citizens for social elevation have created a cut-throat neo-Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest society which has almost completely neglected the inner dimensions of the human experience. Education, society and culture lack reflection.
Chinese government policy must be fingered as lying at the heart of the problem. At this time it has been pointed out that the Communist party has fully adopted only one third of Sun Yat Sen’s China vision. The CCP have fostered zealous nationalism. Their adoption of Sun’s ‘livelihood’ is partial at best, as the economic focus has been on the exploitation of the masses for the benefit of the rich. Finally, they have stoutly rejected Sun’s ‘democracy’. And it is arguably with democracy that civil society can best flourish.
Further, Chinese dissidents who have attempted to challenge the system have been imprisoned and tortured. Some Western countries which have tried to ‘interfere’ have been punished. Norway, for example, has had its salmon exports to China effectively halted in the wake of the awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xaobo.
It is my hope that the Yue Yue tragedy can be a catalyst for some much needed and painful introspection in China, and the world. These past days we have seen thousands on the streets of nations all across the world, decrying the abuses of crony capitalism.
It is not enough to have material security, food aplenty, several apartments and multiple mobile devices to fiddle with in one’s spare time. Even most of the poor in China have TVs, mobile phones and rice on the table. But has the psychological and spiritual development of China (and the world) kept pace with the speed of economic development? The evidence we can take from those who walked aloofly passed the still figure of Yue Yue in a small street in Foshan is an emphatic “no”. Not only has spiritual maturity not ensued in China, it appears to have almost evaporated. It is not good enough that the only person who had enough compassion to assist a critically injured two year old was a garbage lady. I know I am not the only person who is hoping, praying, that this incident is a turning point in China’s development. Even better, perhaps it can be a turning point in the development of the whole world. Enough is enough.


  1. Wow, Marcus. This is a powerful post and a tragic example of exactly what is wrong with the global situation. I didn't realize that Apple's products exploited the Chinese.I hadn't heard about this young girl. May bed repost this story??

  2. That's sposed to read: may we repost....late, I type too fast.

  3. I'm not sure whether you received my email, Trish (just sent reply). Anyway, you can repost. Glad you like the article.


  4. Didn't get the email, Marcus! But thank you, I'll be back to copy.

  5. Great post Markus...and I agree with you on the exploitation of the lower class in China,but mainly by the West.Because in the west we think we are getting bargains buy shopping at places like IKEA,Walmart,Bunnings,etc.But lets ask ourselves why it's so cheap? It's because the goods are made by virtual slaves.These companies like IKEA will go to great lengths to mislead the customer by stating that the products are DESIGNED in Sweden,but look at the box and you will see they are made in China,Vietnam,Poland,or wherever they can outsource the production to the lowest bidder,so they can make maximum profits from virtual slavery.
    Read this article from the Sydney Morning Herald about IKEA and it's founder Ingvar Kamprad,the man who put the IK into IKEA.

    "IKEA, the Swedish retail chain, used political prisoners in East Germany as ''slave labour'' to make furniture, secret police files appear to show..."
    He was a member of Sweden’s pro-fascist New Swedish Movement until about 1956,so maybe that gives you an idea of his true leanings.

    It's time people voted with their you say the blood is on all our hands.

  6. Good observations, Daz. Westernern consumers should be aware of the TRUE cost of things. But I can tell you that in China it is no better. Many of the middle class are totally out of touch with the fact that there are hundreds of millions of people in China who have very little. About 3 years ago I told a Chinese woman (who worked as a manager of a 5 star hotel in Beijing) that there were 40 million people living in poverty in China. She got angry and said "This is typical foreigner talk!" Actually the real number is vastly more than that. I was just quoting government statistics. In order to be classified as "poor" by the Chinese government at that time you had to earn less than one hundred American dollars A YEAR! They have put the figure up to about $200 now. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the Chinese government to set policy that protects workers rights. But they don't want to, as it would affect productivity. Human rights are expensive.