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October 27, 2011

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'Good Samaritans' made up at least part of story

THE three "good Samaritans" who were widely praised for helping a fainted pregnant woman actually cheated in the incident to promote the episode into a public stunt, their employer said yesterday.

The two women and a man, who knew each other as colleagues of the online promotions firm Erma Co, pretended to be unacquainted passers-by and a relative of the pregnant woman to catch media attention and tell their "story," the company said.

It still insists the incident that happened on Saturday afternoon was "real" and that the trio did help the nine-months pregnant woman. It claimed she was not an actor, but she has not surfaced publicly since the incident and the Shanghai No.1 People's Hospital has denied accepting such a patient.

The employees faked their identities, made and uploaded the video only to "package and polish" the whole incident to make it more appealing and eye-catching, said Zhang Jun, a manager of Erma China.

The company yesterday apologized to the public for its employees' cheating and guaranteed that they would be punished.

But Zhang claimed that the company was not behind the planning and the staging.

"They are all young people born after 1985, who may have acted without much thinking," said Zhang. "They together made the beautiful lie probably out of good intentions, but ended up not that good."

The "beautiful lie" refers to the six-minute video that recorded the whole event with editing and word descriptions saying the "pregnant woman was helped by a batch of 10-plus warm-hearted passers-by (and) a private car driver even volunteered to send the woman to the hospital."

The video soon became an Internet hit with Web users praising the good Samaritans as the "pride of Shanghai," contrasting their actions to the high-profile case concerning Wang Yue, a two-year-old girl in Guangdong Province who died last Friday after she was twice run over and ignored by 18 passers-by.

But in truth, Cheng Ying, a senior official with Erma and one of the three "helpers," pretended to be the pregnant woman's sister and reported the case to the media. Cheng, with the other two Erma employees, then built a story that the three didn't know each other before but became friends after helping the woman together.

Although the company has apologized for the employees' behavior, the authenticity of the whole episode is still in doubt because the pregnant woman said to be helped and the other passers-by that helped have not surfaced. The three employees blamed by Erma have not returned phone calls from Shanghai Daily.

Some Web users believe the company was behind the planning to gain fame and profits.

"I know Cheng well and I don't think she has designed such a pregnant woman out of nothing," said Zhang. "The pregnant woman kept silent probably because she didn't want to cause trouble for herself and her family."

On Tuesday evening, Cheng sent what she claimed to be a diagnosis report to to prove that the woman was accepted by the hospital. But Web users noted that it would be easy to fake such a report by simply substituting the report of any real pregnant woman.

Cheng and one of the other employees involved in the stunt was on a business trip and refused to be interviewed, said Zhang.


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