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Doing the right thing

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-06-07 12:20

Doing the right thing

[Photo by Wang Liming/China Daily]

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The silence from bystanders was deafening when all you could hear from videos of the Zhaoyuan beating was a woman's screams. The subsequent soul-searching reveals a nation caught in a quandary between the instincts for self-protection and the need to act.

A nation was shocked over the weekend when videos of a vicious beating went viral. On the evening of May 28, a diner at a local McDonald's restaurant in Zhaoyuan, Shandong province, was approached by six people who asked for her phone number. She refused.

They lashed out at her, and she was pronounced dead a few hours later.

Those who fatally beat her did not look like a gang of thugs. One was a father with three of his children, one of whom was underage.

After a night of intense speculation, the public was informed that the perpetrators belonged to an illegal cult called the "Church of Almighty God".

They were recruiting new members when they asked patrons for contact information. They told the police that they struck the woman because they saw her as a "demon".

One of the videos was obviously taken by a patron who kept a safe distance from the incident. It is blurry and rarely has the target in the frame, but the screaming is loud and clear. It seems other customers all retreated like the videographer. There was no sign that anyone intervened.

It was later revealed that a McDonald's employee did attempt to stop the beating and was injured in the process. Employees or patrons called the emergency number for help. But even the arrival of the police a few minutes later did not deter the attackers, which is a likely testament to the viciousness of the attack.

The lack of intervention by the bystanders triggered a massive campaign of soul-searching. Are people so cold-hearted and self-protective that they won't lend a hand to a helpless woman under attack? Granted, it was difficult for those at the scene to judge what caused the incident, but the malevolence of the assault was quite obvious.

Perhaps its cold-blooded nature sent an instant signal that anyone who dared to intervene might be risking his or her own life.

Looking at the photo of the woman lying in a big pool of blood, people could not avoid the question: "If I were present, what would I have done?"

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