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October 26, 2011

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'The pride of Shanghai' ... or a cynical publicity stunt?

DOUBTS have been raised about "the pride of Shanghai" - members of the public who helped a pregnant woman who had fainted - after it emerged they included actors working for an online promotions company.

Questions are now being asked if the whole episode, which became an Internet hit after footage was posted online, was a publicity stunt.

Web users praised the good Samaritans, 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 as she lay badly injured.

Erma Shanghai Co, the company that employed the actors, insists they simply happened to be in the area at the time and helped out.

Shanghai No.1 People's Hospital, where the nine-months pregnant woman was said to have been taken on Sunday, told Shanghai Daily they admitted no patient matching that description.

The pregnant woman, surnamed Zhang, her sister and a helper did not answer calls requesting interviews.

And the white Volkswagen Polo said to have ferried the woman from Luxun Park to hospital has been found to belong to Erma Shanghai Co, a subsidiary of Erma China, a company famous for organizing promotional activities.

Web users also claimed that a man who, at the end of the clip, says in the Shanghai dialect, "just call us Shanghainese," appears in a Erma Shanghai promotion.

Wang Yang, a director with Erma Shanghai, admitted to Shanghai Daily yesterday that some helpers in the video are its employees and that the car belongs to them.

But he denied staging the incident. "Our employees happened to be there, witnessed the incident, and volunteered to help," said Wang.

Wang said skepticism surrounding the incident reflected a cynical society. "I don't understand why nowadays no one actually believes in good deeds," said Wang.

He referred to the case of Wang Yue, and how a garbage collector who came to the child's aid found herself accused of trying to promote herself to get famous.

Wang asked: "In such a society without trust, where every helper is regarded as an actor, who would offer a helping hand to anyone?"

The doubts have stirred up more controversy over whether Chinese society is growing more selfish.

One web user dismissed the incident as "a purely commercial act, cheating thousands of people." But another netizen said they were just glad that "some people are trying to awaken people's good conscience."


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