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February 9, 2010

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Woman falls, and so does kindness

A WOMAN who fell off an escalator at a Shanghai department store and lost consciousness was left unattended for about 20 minutes because members of the public feared litigation if they intervened.

It is a sad reflection of today's society when anxiety over possible legal action overshadows simple human kindness.

The woman, aged in her 30s, finally regained consciousness with the help of police officers and was sent to a nearby hospital after her fall on Sunday night.

According to a witness, the woman suffered her serious tumble at Cloud Nine Shopping Mall on Changning Road at 6:20pm, when she misseda step on the escalator.

Many people gathered around the stricken woman but no one came forward to render assistance, witnesses said.

"It's not that easy to play the hero these days ... you have to be strong and warm-hearted to shoulder the responsibilities - and rich enough to pay the cost," said student Wang Zhejun, 20.

Incidents of good samaritans becoming the victims of litigation have become more frequent in China.

The most infamous recent case has been that of Li Kaiqiang, a college student in central China's Henan Province who was ordered by a court to pay 78,000 yuan (US$11,426) in compensation after he helped an elderly woman who suffered a fall after hitting his vehicle.

In August 2008, Li assisted the woman, surnamed Song, to her feet after her bicycle hit the rear of his moped.

Song then grabbed him by the wrist and started to shout that Li crashed into her and injured her back, a story the court believed.

On November 20, 2006, in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, Peng Yu took elderly woman Xu Shoulan, who was knocked down by a bus, to a hospital.

However, Xu said Peng was the person who knocked her down and sued him for her medical expenses.

A court ordered Peng to pay about 45,876 yuan to Xu as there was no witness to back up his claim.

"We were taught to do good deeds, to trust others and to love them, but now the tables have sadly turned," said Tian Weiguo, 63, a retired Shanghai worker. "There are too many people who are cold and indifferent."

A total of 222 people participated in an online survey conducted by yesterday that showed an alarming trend.

Just eight said they would have tried to help the woman who suffered the escalator fall - but only if there were witnesses who could prove that the accident was not their fault.

"As long as someone is willing to testify for me, I'd love to help as I still believe in kindness as a human trait," said student Chen Ye, 19.

About 45 percent of the participants said they would call 120 for medical help but ruled out personally offering assistance.

Another 48 percent said they "would rather mind their own business" and would never try to help the victim of a fall.

"In the old days I would have helped without hesitation," said Fu Yimin, a Shanghai fitness coach.

"But now I'm in such a dilemma ... I guess I would wait for someone else to make the first move.

"If they don't care, then I don't."


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