Monday, June 4, 2012

Cleaner Carries Students in Rain

The Chinese media reports a story of one good samaritan where China's mircobloggers have dissected the story to critique the morals of Chinese college-aged youth.

Photos uploaded by a Chinese microblogger show an older cleaning lady who had rolled up her pants to carry college students across their partially flooded campus. Due to heavy rain, parts of the campus were under water and this kind woman carried numerous students on her back to the teaching building that was across the flooded path.

When asked why she was willing to carry those students, Wu Xiuying said, “I saw how inconvenient it was for what the students were wearing, so I thought of carrying them across. The students were quite reluctant/embarrassed about it and afraid of tiring me. I have a child too, so while I might be just an ordinary janitor, I am also their elder, and therefore I should take care of these students.” (translated by ChinaSmack)

Microbloggers commented on the woman's kind heart but also criticized the students for whom she was carrying:

(就用李斌): "Is this considered a good thing? Are those college students still in day care?"
(ilzdmj): "Are these students handicapped?"
(怎么昵称都被抢注了阿): "College students or society’s parasites?"
(陈志坚物流): "If who she carried were kindergarten kids, we should praise this auntie for having a loving heart, but she carried [college students]…That just makes me want to yell at people."
(有时憋不住): "From this day forward, those girls (the so-called college students) who were carried on the back of this auntie have lost their qualification to be future teachers of the people!!!"
(translated from Weibo by ChinaSmack)

This is a great example of the misinformation that spreads throughout the Chinese internet. As my research depicted for my paper a few years ago, misinformation thrives on the internet and even simple news stories can be mis-interpreted when netizens becomes passionate about a given subject. This was clearly evident in the case of Grace Wang, where Chinese netizens mis-interpreted the photo of her intervening in a pro-Tibet/pro-China standoff where she acted as a neutral mediator. Netizens instead saw a Chinese "traitor" who was supporting Tibet's independence from China. This led to her parents being harassed in China, as well as the Chinese media calling her "the most ugly exchange student."

In this article, it appears that netizens have acted to paint a picture of these Chinese college students being carried as spoiled, lazy girls. But in fact the woman volunteered to carry the girls on their backs, and it should have been a story of utmost kindness and a good deed. As the woman was quoted as saying, the girls were initially "reluctant" and "embarrassed" to be carried across, and netizens who were not present should not try to characterize these girls. By simply reading a news stories or viewing images of this event, one does not take into account the persistence of the old woman or the direness of the situation itself. Instead, netizens choose what they want to see which fuels their comments and online actions.

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