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October 12, 2011

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Controversy over 'heroic rescue'

LYING in bed, 20-year-old Chen Meijie is frustrated not only by the crushed vertebrae that have left her temporarily paralyzed, but also by the debate whether she is a hero who risked her life to save three children ... or a money-grabber.

Chen says she suffered the injuries taking the impact of a sack of granules weighing about 1,000 kilograms that was about to fall on children playing in a yard in Baoshan District on August 1.

The native of Luoyang City in Henan Province, who was working as an intern in the city, was visiting a friend working at Bei'er Fireproofing Material Co at the time.

She said she saw a sack begin to fall on the two girls and a boy, aged seven and eight, whose parents worked at the plant, and rushed over.

Chen took the brunt of the impact while the children suffered less serious injuries.

However, Chen was shocked to learn that when the city government wanted to reward her for her actions, the children's parents denied she had saved them.

Now recovering in the rented apartment back in her hometown, Chen is upset by the controversy, even to the extent of not wanting to answer calls from Shanghai numbers.

"Without her help, the children could have been buried under that heavy sack, with consequences that don't bear thinking about," her sister, 25-year-old Chen Hui, told Shanghai Daily.

Initially, the parents thanked Chen and wrote letters saying she had saved their children.

But when police began investigations, they denied that Chen had saved the children.

If they acknowledged that Chen was injured saving their children, the families could be liable to pay her compensation.

They claimed they wrote the letters "telling lies about her help" because Chen's father had begged them to do so to aid a different compensation claim.

"She didn't help. She was playing with my daughter under that dangerous bag when the accident happened," said a woman surnamed Liu, whose seven-year-old daughter was slightly injured in the accident.

"She was not trying to save them, but was accidentally crushed by the material with them."

At the company office yesterday, Liu's daughter, surnamed Chen, told reporters that "no one was helping."

Chen Hui said she believes the company pressurized its workers to retract their earlier statements in a bid to shift responsibility to Chen Meijie.

Bei'er Fireproofing denies this claim.

"I was there in the hospital. I asked the little girl whether she was helped, and she nodded. Now I can't believe that they're denying everything," said Chen Hui.

Officials with Baoshan District's Luojing Town said Chen Meijie cannot now receive a reward due to a lack of evidence. According to an official, surnamed Xu, the three children were the only witnesses in the accident, and when questioned by police in three separate rooms, they all said she didn't help.

"We feel sorry for the woman, but the lack of evidence now prevents us from rewarding her," said Xu. "But one thing for sure is that the company has to take responsibility for the accident."

An official with Bei'er Fireproofing, who asked not to be named, said yesterday that the company is planning to see the family in court if they seek compensation.

Despite the controversy now surrounding her, Chen Meijie, speaking through her sister, says her conscience is clear and she would do the same again.

"If it happened again, I would come to their aid.

"They are such beautiful young lives that if I just left them there, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night."


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