Foreigners become online heroes after offering help to Chinese people
One American student and a Brazilian are the toast of Chinese social media users this week thanks to their “heroic” deeds of sharing French fries from McDonald’s with a homeless woman and preventing a local girl from having her purse stolen.
For Jason Loose, the young American who came to study in Nanjing University from California, it has been quite a surprise to earn the moniker “American French Fry Brother” from Chinese netizens. He said it had never occurred to him that “such an ordinary act” of sharing food and chatting with homeless people “should make such a splash”.
“I shall never gain such wide attention in the U.S. by doing so. One reason could be I am not a ‘laowai’ (foreigner) at home. Another is this kind of thing is quite common in America,” Loose said on his Sina Weibo.
While Loose was celebrated for his act of charity, the Brazilian was feted for his courage in a bloody encounter with street robbers.
Last Friday he intervened when he saw a pickpocket trying to steal the purse of a female passer-by in a crowded shopping area in Dongguan, Guangdong province. The pickpocket’s accomplices turned on the Brazilian and starting beating him in public, all while onlookers stayed away and did nothing to help.
“Only when everyone helps each other will thieves know that they must pay a price to commit a crime here, but the current situation is completely the opposite. With this experience, if I were to run into a similar situation next time, I won’t nor dare to help,” the man, who called himself Mozen, told the official People’s Daily.
A Guangzhou local newspaper said on Wednesday that Dongguan officials later met Mozen and gave him a 50,000 yuan reward.
Mozen and Loose are not the first laowai to gain internet fame from helping Chinese citizens in public. In April 2011, a foreigner came to aid of a Chinese woman who had been stabbed by her son at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport while locals stood on and watched.
Most foreigners living in China don’t consider such basic, although still kind and brave, social actions worthy of the attention they garner on Chinese social media. But the country is in the throes of soul-searching following a number of incidents in recent years in which Chinese either failed to help in similar situations or were punished for helping.
In the most distressing example, a 2-year old girl, Xiao Yueyue, was knocked down by vehicles in a domestic city and ignored by more than a dozen passers-by. She died of her injuries.
Whenever these incidents occur, debate reopens on public forums and in local media about the lack of morals or compassion among Chinese as the country grows wealthier. But the debate is often skewed, with acts of bravery by Chinese ignored or treated with suspicion, while netizens often fail to mention that similar soul-searching occurs in foreign countries when people fall victim to crimes and onlookers also do nothing.
Here are some comments from Sina Weibo on the two latest cases, offering a broad snapshot of popular opinion:
@ę“ęē¶äŗŗéę°ę£® (Jason Loose)ļ¼There was once a time in American history called “Gilded Age,” when the conditions in cities were quite similar with those in China nowadays, with fast economic growth, industrialization, globalization and polarization... As far as I know, at that time, urban people were quite cold and the poor lived quite awfully.
@ęé ēļ¼French Fry Brother is so loving. But I would worry others call me shability (stupid) if I do so.
@åå“čµ·ēäøä»£ļ¼If the person in this event was not a laowai but a Chinese, I believe many people would say he was hyping....
@éå¤§ē³ļ¼Americans, do not interfere China’s domestic affairs!!! (Can I say that?)
@čęÆčµļ¼From the Brazilian young man to American man, those alien civilizations are interrogating ours, a state of etiquette culture with a history of 5,000 years.
@å¾ ę„äøēøä¼“-Sunļ¼No matter what kind of motives the laowai holds, this incident has made me feel shameful.
@zuibiexilouļ¼China do not lack kind people... It is not true that Chinese people do not want to help, but those who offer help usually do not earn good results.