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Stuntman’s tragedy shows risk of flirting with disaster

By Chang Jun | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-12-14 04:39

I was saddened this weekend to read about an ambitious young Chinese man, 26-year-old "roof-topper" Wu Yongning, who died in a plunge from the top of a 62-story skyscraper while live-streaming his daredevil stunt.

Wu, who once proclaimed himself "China's first unprotected high-altitude extreme challenger", was confirmed dead on Dec 8, according to Chinese media.

On Nov 8, Wu climbed to the top of the Huayuan International Centre in Changsha, Hunan province, to do pullups. Wu's camera, which he placed on another part of the building, captured the moment that he struggled to get back up on the ledge, lost his grip and fell 45 feet down below. His body was later found by a window cleaner.

As one of the Chinese pioneers risking their lives in extreme sports, Wu and his death have whipped up heated debate online. As some hail his courage and adventurous spirit, most criticize him for setting a negative example for the younger generation.

Dreaming to cash in on China's booming livestreaming industry, which is expected to surpass $5 billion this year and triple its value by 2020, Wu joined millions of China's livestreamers looking for ways to make a quick fortune.

Originally a background stunt actor who could hardly make ends meet, Wu started filming viral videos in January, releasing them on livestreaming site Volcano and positioning himself as China's "most famous roof-topper".

According to statistics, a third of Chinese have watched live videos on hundreds of platforms, the most popular being Inke and douyu.

When Wu discovered that by posting heart-pounding videos of himself climbing up high-rise buildings he could become an overnight sensation and earn much more money, he embarked on the unprotected, extreme form of the stunt.

For 10 months, Wu scaled skyscrapers around China, performing stunts and live streaming them. He was captured on video riding a balance bike on the roof edge of a tall building, doing stretches or pullups.

In mid-July, he did pullups without a harness, holding on to the edge of a 1,000-metre-high walkway in Zhangjiajie, a famous scenic spot in Hunan.

In September, he walked on a tiny ledge on top of the 68-story Yuexiu Fortune Center in Wuhan, in Hubei province.

With approximately 1 million followers and 217 livestreaming sessions, Wu received virtual payment that he traded for real currency totaling 55,000 yuan, or $8,333.

According to Chinese media reports, Wu was planning to propose to his girlfriend, who referred to herself as Jin Jin, on Nov 10, two days after his fatal misadventure.

Wu's tragedy also reflected many of the regulatory loopholes in business property management in China, reminding the public to abide by safety rules while pursuing individual life goals.

There is no doubt that high-altitude, extreme sports challenge people's physical abilities, but without adequate precautions, they can be suicidal.

It's also time for livestreaming industry watchdogs to monitor content of platforms and define standard operating procedures.

Wu died on the scene on Nov 8, but his death wasn't confirmed until one month later after fans became concerned that there were no new videos being added to his social media account.

Hopefully, we can all be reminded that spending our lives the right way for the right cause means taking care of ourselves and others.

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