Inquiring minds want to know: what is Shenzhen’s Samaritan Law? Well, it’s actually its being referred to as “the good person law (好人法)” and ims to protect good Samaritans from being sued by people they have helped.
Two events focused attention on the extent to which many Chinese have become afraid to help strangers in need. The first was the widely publicized Nanjing Peng Yu Case (南京彭宇案). Apparently, on November 20, 2006, Peng Yu helped Xu Shoulan after she had been knocked down disembarking from a bus. He accompanied her to the hospital to receive medical assistance, where it was discovered she had several broken bones. According to Chen Erchun, he helped Peng Yu bring Xu Shoulan to the hospital and she was grateful when the two left her there in the care of the doctors. Subsequently, however, Xu Shoulan sued Peng Yu for causing her accident. Peng Yu admitted that he could have been responsible for causing the accident because he was the first to disembark. The court found that because it was impossible to know what actually happened at the bus, but required Peng Yu to pay damages of 45,876 rmb to Xu Shoulan.
The second event, the “Yue Yue Incident (小悦悦事件)” took place in Foshan. On October 13, 2011, the two-year old toddler crawled into the street, where she was hit by a truck. An estimated 18 pedestrians walk passed and another car hit her before someone moved to help. Yue Yue died in a Guangzhou hospital eight days later on October 21, 2011. The outrage for the callous behaviour of the pedestrians as well as shock at what the event said about public morality in China promted the Shenzhen Government to proposed the Good Person Law.
The Samaritan Law was passed two days ago. I’m not sure what to make of the law. I hope it helps us overcome our fear of strangers and general suspicion that people are trying to take advantage of us. I have become self-protectively suspicious about intervening in shouting matches or giving money to beggars I don’t recognize. Indeed, I wonder if Shenzhen’s decision to legislate public morality does not so much respond to a general indifference to strangers and their well-being, but rather compensates for the “street smarts” that we have cultivated in order to navigate uncertain waters.
But here’s the rub: There are questions about how the Samaritan Law will be enforced and if public morality can be legislated. Moreover, proponents emphasize that the law only protects those who help in a reasonable manner; people who use inappropriate means to help cannot expect legal protection. Apparently, people are not only concerned about helping others, but also worried about being helped.