8 Minutes

Last Monday I spent the day with my friend Robert Lio and his wife Xiao up in rural Rongshui County just north of Liuzhou.  Robert and his family were making a quick stop in Liuzhou during their whirlwind spring tour of China and we had a nice, albeit short visit.  We met some Rongshui locals and got some cool shots in the Guangxi countryside before making our way back to the city just before sunset.  We quickly put together some loose plans for a visit during the fall then said our goodbyes.  They dropped me off in the city center and I began to walk across the Liujiang Bridge toward the house.   I had decided to keep the camera out thinking maybe I might come across something on the way home.  About a quarter of the way across the bridge I came across this.

8 Minutes

8 Minutes

At first I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  I mean the boy’s posture was so nonchalant, talking on his cell while standing on the railing of the bridge, that my brain just wasn’t connecting the dots.  Also, there was nobody making any effort to talk to the kid or stop him in any way.  For that matter, except for a couple of curious glances, it seemed nobody was even looking at him.  Folks were just walking by going about their business as if there wasn’t a kid precariously perched on a bridge railing 200 feet above the Liujiang River.  Dumbstruck, I instinctively raised the camera and fired off three shots before going over to talk to the boy.

8 Minutes

8 Minutes

I asked him what he was doing (yeah I know… duh) and reached out to him and asked him to come down.  He was totally non-responsive.  He never looked at me or acknowledged me in any way.

I looked around to finally see some folks taking notice.  I asked some young people to call 110 (China’s 911).  I am telling you not a single soul on that bridge made a move for their cell.  The despondent boy then climbed down to the outside edge of the bridge, turned away from us facing the setting sun, looked down and casually tossed his phone into the river.  I could see by his body language and the look on his face that he was serious.  He was getting ready, taking long deep breaths.  I looked back at the small group nearby and they were just standing there, paralyzed, staring back at me.  I punched in 110 myself and did my best to make the emergency operator understand that a boy was about to jump off the bridge.  Now I am the first to admit that my Chinese stinks but this was fairly simple, or so I thought.  Maybe I was too excited,.  Maybe I simply got it all wrong but for whatever reason I could not  make myself understood.  Exasperated,  I resorted to repeating over and over “liujiang qiao” (Liujiang Bridge).  Still, nothing from the other end of the phone.  I pleaded, I kid you not, I pleaded with standers-by to talk to the police.  I asked at least 6 different people to take my phone.  Not one would do it.  Some actually backed away from me, waving their hands and shaking their heads before rushing off down the bridge.  By then there were at least 15 people curiously watching me.  A few even had goofy grins on their faces.  I am serious when I say this, no one was watching the boy.

The phone still in my hand I turned again to the rail to see that the kid was gone!  I quickly found him flailing mid-air, plummeting toward the river and then watched as he broke the surface with an audible smack.  I yelled into the phone, of course in English now, “He jumped!  He’s jumped from the bridge!”.  Looking around I made eye contact with a young girl of about 20 or so, again pleading with her to take the phone.  This time she did and calmly spoke to the operator before handing the phone back with a smile and a very clear “Thank you…” in English.  It felt so odd, the smile, the “thank you”.  It had taken just 8 minutes.  8 minutes from the time I took the first photo until I hung up the phone.  It felt like an hour.  I was in my own little Fellini movie, wading through the red jello that can sometimes be China.

The boy quickly popped up to the surface and appeared to be swimming with the current before disappearing again under the bridge.  I think he must be OK as friends tell me there has been no mention of the incident in the Liuzhou papers or on local TV.  I certainly hope he is OK and that he finds some way of coming to grips with the issues that prompted the leap.

That being said, as disturbing as it was to watch the incident unfold I have to say I am more disturbed with the apathy displayed by those witnessing the event.  No one on that bridge was willing to help prevent that kid from jumping.  Not one person said a word to him.  No one made a move toward him.  In fact, quite the contrary, most just kept walking right on by.  Only after he had gone over the edge did anyone agree to take my phone.  Of course, I am feeling guilty too, wondering now if I did enough myself.  We are often told here, as foreign nationals, to not get involved in any situations like this.  I always have a hard time making that choice and trust me if you are here long enough you are gong to have to make that choice one day.  I actually got into a little trouble last year by getting myself involved, preventing a bicycle theft in a crowded street market.  Of course the kid whose bike was being stolen was very grateful but my thanks included an official very stern warning to never do anything like that again.  I was thinking about that warning while watching the kid on the bridge.  Still, if I had it to do over again, I would have put down my camera and my bag full of lenses and just grabbed the kid to deal with the consequences later.  Not to sound callous but if I had put down the camera and bag I give the odds at no better than 50/50 as to whether or not someone would have taken off with them. Now I wasn’t thinking about that consciously but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought may have been there sub-consciously and that may account for some of my hesitation.

I have thought long and hard about even posting this piece.  I am no doubt going to “hurt some feelings”.  So, before any fervent nationalist or old-hand Laowai want to take this opportunity to tell me just how much I don’t understand about China let me make an attempt to head you off at the pass.  I don’t do a lot of China bashing here on this blog, there are plenty of others doing that already.  It’s not that I don’t have an opinion.  It’s just that I usually find it’s all been said before by writers who are much more eloquent and can present the subject matter in an interesting and entertaining way, certainly more so that I am capable of.  I don’t always agree with the pundits but I often find the various blog commentaries dead-on, sometimes humorous, almost always interesting and all too often sad.  I long ago gave up on ever completely understanding China.  Yet, like many of my fellow expatriates, I have come to love this country warts and all.   Of course there are problems here just like there are problems back home.  No one place or country or group of people are unique in that aspect.  What is unique here, is that the suicide rate in China is about 50% higher than the global average.  A recent two-year survey by researchers at Peking University found over 20 percent of 140,000 high-school students interviewed said they had considered committing suicide and another recent study by health authorities in Foshan, Guangdong Province, found that 17 percent of junior high school girls had contemplated suicide.

Now all that being said, this whole apathetic approach, that “none of my business” -“I don’t want to get involved” mentality that is all too often displayed here is, again, disturbing.  Is the same attitude displayed in New York, Sydney, Paris or London?  Of course.  It is indeed, but it does not happen with the regularity I see on display here.  I have witnessed it more times than I can remember and I can’t for the life of me  figure it out.  Maybe is it fear-based.  Again, I admit I just don’t know.  Perhaps it is one of those cultural mindsets unique to China that I am never going to understand.  I hope I continue to grow while in China.  I hope I can continue to evolve in my thinking, that I remain open-minded to the possibility that I don’t know it all and that my understanding of the world may not be as complete as I would sometimes like to think.   I also hope that for however long I do live here, I don’t ever lose my empathy.  I also hope the people of China can find their empathy and hold onto it for an amount of time longer than it takes to forget about something like the tragedy of  a devastating earthquake.

Oh, and one more thought…

For any of you 110 operators out there, if a laowai calls and repeats the name of a bridge over and over,  it’s probably a good idea to just send somebody to the blasted bridge!

ADDENDUM: As I suspected, this post has fueled a lot of opinion and commentary.  A lot of it is insightful and well thought out.  It’s coming from a lot of different places and most of it has been pretty civil.  I don’t agree with all of it as frankly some of it is rubbish.  A lot of it just adds fuel to my “I’ll never understand why” fire.  Except for the most vile and rude, I’ve posted almost all of the comments here giving folks their say while reserving the right to respond in kind, especially if you try and explain away the events by simply saying I didn’t see what I saw.  I was there, I know what I saw. I KNOW people understood what was happening and I KNOW some of them understood me.  Also, IF you leave a comment here and you have the temerity to blast someone else’s thoughts, ideas or perceptions, at least have the courage to not do so anonymously. You’re probably not going to get published otherwise. This post is fast running it’s course.  I am near certain we are not going to “figure it all out” on my little photo blog.  It’s a subject that’s been debated for many years already and unfortunately it’s gonna’ be in debate for many years to come.

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~ by Expatriate Games on April 24, 2009.

49 Responses to “8 Minutes”

  1. Sad, innit? When I looked at the photo on flickr before reading this account of events, I was about to say that it was strange that there seemed to be no one caring about him in the vicinity. People nowadays take “mind your own business” too seriously.

  2. Aw, Michael this is so sad… and so honest on your part.
    I hope that young man finds peace.
    And, I hope you always stay the sensitive, caring person you are.

  3. Helluva a story Mike. 200 foot drop and he kept going? It’s that old saying, “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be”.

    Nothing else you could have done…

    R(etc… )

    • Yeah I’ve been feeling a bit like that as well Ron, it wasn’t his time. In retrospect, I must admit that I don’t know exactly how high that bridge is, suffice to say it’s a serious fall and could easily do some damage.

  4. Very sad read, I hope that young man who jumped is alright and can move forward. I also hope that if (or more appropriately when) I am faced with an emergency situation like this I can gather the courage to act.

  5. Intense story and I am glad you decided to share it. I watched a depressing movie called “The Bridge” that was about the people who jump off the Golden Gate. On average a person every 2 weeks jumps off (shocking) and in one of the cases a photographer was walking down the bridge same as you, and his first instinct was to take a shot. I think its photographer’s instinct so don’t second guess your actions. He also said it took a few seconds to connect the dots after taking the shot and then also went to help. Would like to see a shot from the bridge to the water, maybe no one thought it was high enough for a suicide?? Seems odd people would be apathetic like that, even in China.

    • “maybe no one thought it was high enough for a suicide??”

      Yeah HF, that is certainly possible but I think it is still more apathy than anything else.

      Wow, one every two weeks off the Golden Gate, that’s sobering.

  6. Just spoke with wy wife who grew up in China. She says 30 years ago people would have gotten involved, but nowadays people are becoming increasingly selfish and less concerned about others. Ironically, I kinda feel the same thing may be happening on a global basis. In that documentary about the Golden Gate I seem to remember people who got involved saying they were shocked at how many bystanders were not helping along with them.

    My wife just said something interesting to me, she said if it had been a laowai on the bridge, the bystanders would have gotten involved.

    • I totally agree with you about the same thing happening globally. I just hope somewhere along the line we can all wake the hell up. I also am going to agree with your wife about “if the laowai was the jumper thing”. The truth is, more people were interested in why I was ranting than about the boy jumping.

    • I have a hard time believing that 30 years ago people would have cared — maybe it’s true, i don’t know, but it sounds like the romanticizing of the old days (pre-Reform & Opening) that I hear occasionally. Chinese social critics like Lu Xun and Lin Yutang were blasting Chinese society for just this kind of callousness since before Liberation, never mind before Reform and Opening. 40 years ago, suicide was a serious political crime.

      No doubt we can find similar anecdotes from around the world, but in China there is a significant difference in general attitudes toward ‘Good Samaritan’-type intervention.

  7. Agonizing story. Cheri and I were talking about it and we agree that this could have been Dallas, TX as well. Except that the 911 operator would have responded somehow. But if someone was calling 911 and talking in Chinese, the reaction might have been similar. The boy was going to jump, regardless of what you did. There is nothing different for you to have done. Even if someone attempted to get involved, he would ignore them as he did to you. Agonizing. Hang in there.

  8. Astonishing and yes very disturbing mate. I’m sorry to say that I’m not surprised, in fact I have also witnessed similar events unfold without a single person lending a hand nor attempting to. I have asked “people” that I both trust and respect here in China and their response is “Why should I, he is (they are) not my relation, I don’t want to get involved”. Perhaps its not wanting to be a part of ‘something’ that could put them in face to face contact with the (so called) authorities (and this says a lot to an outsider of the reality of Chinese society) or maybe its just that simple they are not my relation“.

    Indeed utterly depressing and a rather surreal episode mate – Your statistic re: suicide incidents are really just the tip of the iceberg (Id suggest that the figures quoted are in actuality much much higher. Given the stress that parents, teachers, etc., etc put these “kids” under at Uni etc., and that they have very little outlet for their depressions (anxieties) or places to seek help, I’m not (I’m very sorry to say) surprised.

    Mate, you did what you could and more than everyone around you (that is all you can ask of yourself)
    Peace brother

  9. Wow, Michael. I feel for you. I can understand the frustration that you must have faced. I hate to say it, but, that’s China. You could see someone hit by a bus, laying bleeding on the road, and no one would help. Culturally, and from a historical perspective I can understand. That doesn’t make it right.

    You seem to be handling it better than I would. Having been involved in similar traumas, I know I’d be a tad messed up if I had witnessed the same thing.

    Stay chilly, amigo.

  10. You sound really intense, Michael. When I started reading your account, I thought that the boy is just one of those eccentric types–talking on the phone on top of the ledge. Like L in “Death Note.” Anyway, he jumped! I didn’t quite see that coming.

  11. That is scary, but it just seems to be kind of a global thing…with your readers saying stuff about the Golden Gate and then the episode in China… wow…sobering stuff there…

  12. A very moving story, Michael. Thanks for deciding to write it out. The explanation I always get for these instances of public callousness is lawsuits. In other words, there is a fear that by helping someone out, you run a risk of getting dragged into, perhaps even blamed for, their problems. China, unlike the US, has no Good Samaritan law to protect people with good intentions, and there are piles of stories in the evening papers to reinforce to everyone that they shouldn’t get involved in any stranger’s business.

    Whatever the explanation, it never gets easier.

  13. I don’t really know what to say. Over on this side of the strait, things are similar. People don’t want to “get involved”. It’s a sad state of affairs.

    • Yeah Craig, I was actually wondering if it was any different at all over there. A pity, as you say. Again, one of the things I am just never going to understand, no matter how long I am here.

  14. The thing actually troubled me as well, even as a Chinese. And I well understand things like this happen all the time in China. I always have this kind of hidden fear when I walk or bike along the streets. You never what is going to happen, it is not harmonious at all.

  15. Mike, you’re a great storyteller. Even if the others did not help, they will never forget your example. I believe God has a plan, so I can see His hand in using your life as an example to others. You’ve touched us who have read it, too. You’ve planted seeds for the next time. I doubt any of us will hesitate to engage and not turn away. We know the consequences of apathy.

  16. That’s one horrifying story. The worst part of it is that I’m not surprised by the local reaction.

    One of the most difficult things for me to adapt to while living in China was that idea of not getting involved when seeing someone in need. Granted, I never saw anything quite like what you went through.

  17. I hope that he is truly ok. It must just be a cultural thing where people would rather not get involved…seems strange to someone who would gladly help without thinking about it.

  18. There are few days in my time in China that I have not seen some act of willful apathy, and as someone working with social issues on a daily basis… it is so frustrating to think that this attitude is so pervasive.

    I have witnessed several elderly fall on the sidewalk (one clearly having heart issues this morning) with no one willing to assist and on a couple of occasions I would ask if I could assist… to the bewilderment of a growing crowd of people who apparently have nothing better to do than to stand there and watch.

    It is something with the culture here as people are taught to do literally everything in public as if no one is around, and the passers-by play their role. Be it a kid peeing on the street, a cab driver throwing a bottle out the window, a factory manager polluting a river, a person having a heart attack on a sidewalk, or 20 women illuminated by a pink neon light. There is no sense that someone should step in, to speak up, or to act.

    Perhaps this comes from something historical (everyone likes to point to the impacts of the cultural revolution), perhaps it is the education system (no classes on environment, no first aid class), or perhaps people just don’t want to confront others in a situation like this and lose face because they could not bring the kid off the ledge.

    Either way, and for whatever reason, things will need to change, and while all of the above does exist on a daily basis, I am happy to say that I have seen some change.

    I have seen restaurant staff leap over a bar to open a door for an elderly man in a chair. I have seen average citizens volunteer their time in hospitals and I am beginning to see where people are coming to understand that as their social fabric unwinds.. they will be forced to step in at some point, that things cannot go on as they have and that kids like this one should never have been on that bridge in the first place.


  19. What are some of the reasons for the high suicide rate among teenagers? That’s so sad. It seems to say that they think there’s no hope for them.

    In my opinion only, I blame the Cultural Revolution and the warped philosophy that the unfortunate Chinese were forced to endure. My grandparents were fortunate enough to migrate out of China before they closed the country off. There are stark differences between the “Mainlanders” and the overseas Chinese population. It’s almost as if the events that took place through the 70s, 80s and 90s stripped out the souls of a historically cultural, artistic and scholarly nation leaving behind empty physical shells that no longer feel empathy (or anything else) for another human.

    I watch documentaries about how China will be pumping out future engineers, technology superstars, scientists and business leaders with tremendous levels of drive and determination for world domination, powered by their English language skills. But, the present and future leaders of China must recognize the social detriments that have been unconsciously inflicted upon it’s citizens for several generations before they send out their most valuable export into the global sandbox. It’s like they need massive therapy and shrink sessions to help them deal with the overwhelming transition from being forcefully held down fearful robot to a free-thinking mainstream global citizen with social morals and ethics.

    On the other hand, my parents, presently based in China, have been working with an international group helping to better the lives of people in rural southwest China. Their work from the past 7 years have uncovered countless stories of both extreme poverty and extreme happiness. The underlying thread connecting all those stories is that the Chinese are yearning desperately to find and learn the meaning of their existence. They are literally re-learning how to love, how to care, how to feel. This is the hope for us to focus on, showing once again the triumph of the human spirit.

  20. Michael,

    Sad stuff, but thanks for writing so honestly. I just included this in my own series of posts about “the Good Samaritan with Chinese characteristics” — exploring why Mainlanders don’t typically intervene in public situations (they have their reasons) where foreigners often feel morally compelled to step in, and how we still can intervene, despite the risks.

    Here’s the first of three, in which I included a link to your story: The Good Samaritan with Chinese characteristics (Pt.1): examples

  21. “A subject of horror to crime a legal foreigners is the apathy with which Chinese generally will stand by and see offences committed. It may be partially true to explain this away in the usual manner by attributing it to languor; but it would be more correct to say that it is due to fear of the Law. It is laid down that persons must not interfere unless they have a right to do so by reason of relationship.”

    From Alabaster, Ernest, and Chaloner Alabaster. Notes and Commentaries on Chinese Criminal Law, and Cognate Topics. With Special Relation to Ruling Cases. Together with a Brief Excursus on the Law of Property, Chiefly Founded on the Writings of the Late Sir Chaloner Alabaster (London: Luzac & Co., 1899), p. LVII

    • Yeah, that’s a nice quote. It may have some merit but I personally don’t buy it. Maybe something got lost in translation here but it is not as simple as saying they are “afraid” of getting into trouble for breaking the law. Brother the “law” is broken here 8 ways to Sunday every single day. No, it goes deeper, it’s something carved into the mindset over time.

  22. Quote: ” That being said, as disturbing as it was to watch the incident unfold I have to say I am more disturbed with the apathy displayed by those witnessing the event. No one on that bridge was willing to help prevent that kid from jumping. Not one person said a word to him. No one made a move toward him. In fact, quite the contrary, most just kept walking right on by. Only after he had gone over the edge did anyone agree to take my phone.”

    Probably the people didn’t understand what you said to them; and probably they didn’t realise that the youth was trying to commit suicide; they were curious that a foreign national (you) was in their midst, gesturing crazily to them. Only after they saw the youth jumped down, did they realised that he committed suicide. (Remember, it is common for someone to stand on the rail of a small wooden bridge; that might be why no one paid any attention to him; I too would probably walk by, not that I didn’t want to help him.)

    • Luke, since you left a verifiable email address I am going to go ahead and publish this comment and give your your two cents even though it is MY opinion that none of your argument holds water my friend.

      First… Of course some of those people understood what I said, my Chinese is not THAT bad. Also, since I speak to Chinese everyday for a living I’ve gotten’ pretty good over time at spotting recognition, I know when I am being understood. SOME of the younger people there understood the English as well as my Chinese. Believe me, they understood the boy was going to jump.

      Second… I wasn’t “gesturing crazily”. I was adamant yes, forceful to be sure, but I never even raised my voice until after the boy jumped.

      Third… Small point perhaps, but I just want to make sure we all understand. The boy didn’t commit suicide, he attempted to.

      Fourth… Seriously? “(Remember, it is common for someone to stand on the rail of a small wooden bridge;” That’s the best you got? Where is that common? China? I guess it’s possible but I’ve never seen it and even if that’s so, what does it have to do with anything? The Liujiang Bridge is hardly a small wooden bridge. It is the main North/South route through the city, crossing (very) high above the Liujiang River.

      Finally… “I too would probably walk by, not that I didn’t want to help him.)” Please tell me, how exactly are you going to help the boy by walking on by?

      I’ve heard some of these same “arguments’ from my students, colleagues and friends this week. Folks here know right from wrong. No one wants to admit it’s plain and simple apathy. I am not an idiot Luke. I know what happened on that bridge. I was understood. They knew what was happening and they did nothing. Shame on you for trying to explain it away like this.

  23. Now..thats something!

  24. Although I can’t comment on the details of this post, there is a theory in social psychology called the “bystander effect” or “diffusion of responsibility” that may help to explain part of people’s thinking. It’s been demonstrated in the U.S. which is more of an individual-oriented society compared to group-oriented China, and I’d hesitate to say that psychological lessons from individual-oriented societies automatically apply to group-oriented societies like Japan.

    In short, bystander effect describes how as more people are present when there’s a problem, the likelier that people won’t do anything because they feel less responsible to respond to the problem. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect

    Other theories are that people rely on authorities like police or firefighters to do “heroic action” because that is who they are trained to expect to step up in such “hero needing” situations. The theory comes from comments like “Who am I to do anything in that situation?”. This leads some groups to teach “speaking up” trainings to bystanders such as universities have done with sexual assault awareness workshops.

    There’s also the scene for this. If this happens in a dense city compared to a suburb or compared to a rural setting. Since people do more things in the countryside and to know more of the towns people, my guess is that you’d have less of a bystander effect if this were to happen on a bridge in the countryside.

    Regardless none of these theories can take away seeing and experiencing this first-hand and (a) trying to realize that the man was trying to commit suicide and (b) trying to do something to change that from happening.

    Thanks again for posting so honestly about your experience.

  25. This is a wonderfully written, and deeply moving post. I can’t add anything to the comments that haven’t already been said other than to say that while I’ve never been through anything like this, I’ve experienced similar moments. I’m enjoying your photos and writing, and will chat with you more at some point – in the process of moving Snarky Tofu over to WordPress, so will link you then.


  26. I think that if someone had stopped to ask about him, he may not have jumped so quickly. He just needed to know that someone cared enough to ask him why he was in such a situation. The sad part is that people do not want to get involved yet they stopped to stare. You can see it on the streets quite often. If there is an accident or someone is standing on the pavement yelling away or just doing something out of the ordinary (and this is subjective of course what ordinary is), a whole bunch of people will stop to stare. It’s like they’re waiting for something to happen. I live in Shenzhen and we refer to this as ‘kan re nao’. It means watching something happen!

  27. Wow. I saw the photograph (hadn’t read what you had written yet) and wanted to vomit. Unfortunately I had that exact same feeling once here in China too. I saw a woman and her child get hit (hard) by a truck. In the case I saw people intervened. Unfortunately with the population as large as it is, I think people see more of these things here than they do in other countries, and perhaps they are somewhat desensitized to it. We just had a teacher at the school where I work do it, and I certainly hope my students take things in stride when final exam results come out (whether or not they get into college). I think some people really don’t know what to do. I know part of what made watching the accident difficult to see was the child was moved by a bystander, which still tortures me. I suspect they didn’t think the police would do anything, as I have also been told the “ambulance” won’t necessarily do anything more than a car will, but that’s just this Laowai’s take.

  28. I read your article again and again. I thought. I asked myself questions. I felt sorry for the kid, and for you too as this must be really shocking. And I would like to let you know that if I were on that bridge too I would have joined you.

  29. Michael, unfortunately “I don’t wanna’ get involved” is global. One night, my ex-boyfriend and I were leaving a gas station, walking. He held a 6 pack. Two kids started following us, asking for our beer. My ex said no, and the two started beating him up badly. After a few minutes on it, one of them picked a heavy stone from the sidewalk and started hitting him in the head. I tried to hold his arm and ask him to stop, unable to do it myself, it didn’t work. He was bleeding a lot, I was screaming like crazy and yet, the security guard across the street, probably holding a gun, did nothing. Nor did the neighbours, who obviously heard my screams. I mean, they could’ve called the police anonymously. We had to call the police ourselves, after a man in a wheelchair (said to be some sort of boss in the local drug business) came to us and made the two boys stop. He was the only one who cared, and sure with interest. When you’re dealing drugs, you don’t want the police around. Still, I’m more than grateful to this man. Wasn’t for him, I don’t know what could’ve happened to my ex – or me. God knows what they would do once they were done with him. That’s the way people are. It’s sad and sickening.

    • Oops, forgot to mention I’m Brazilian.

      Yes, I’m from that country known for soccer, half-naked women, Carnival and alleged caring and warm people.

  30. I read your chilling account of the young man jumping off the Liujiang Bridge and it reminded me of my first full day in the PRC. I was cycling along a country road when a convoy approached in the opposite direction. To keep a long story short, the key vehicle in the convoy, a truck, had three men in the back, tied to posts with writing on them and surrounded by heavily armed soldiers. I found out once the convoy had passed, that the three men, two rapists and a murderer, were being taken to the local football stadium to be executed. I was not in China very long and I don’t pretend to be an authority on the country but no where in the world have I seen things that shook me up like some of the things I saw in China…and BTW, my wife is Chinese.

  31. I just read this story by the AP, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090523/ap_on_re_as/as_china_suicide_help , and it made me think of your experience. It is quite disturbing that people would react this way and thank god that there was a safety mat to catch him.

    • Yeah Mike, that story has been widely reported here for a couple of days now. The official version over here is that the “pusher” was mentally disabled.

      Talk about extremes… one case where nobody does anything to the second where a guy pushes the jumper. How in the world the police allowed that guy to get through the barrier and make it over to push the jumper off the bridge is beyond me.

  32. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  33. Thanks a lot for this post. A lot of food for thought….

  34. Hi Michael,
    I read this story several weeks ago and didn’t get a chance to comment on it. I just wanted to let you know that I think it’s really well-written and deeply moving. There are a lot of differing opinions within your comment section. I admire you for the way you’ve given each comment the attention it deserves, whether you agree with it or not. This story has obviously made a huge impact on your readers. Thanks very much for sharing.

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