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A healthy society is based on rules, not heroism

By Bi Yantao | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-11-04 14:37

The wreckage of a bus that plunged into the Yangtze River on Sunday is lifted out of the water in Chongqing's Wanzhou district around 11:30 pm on Wednesday. Zou Yi / For China Daily

On Friday, the local police in Wanzhou district, Chongqing municipality, announced the initial result of their investigation into the bus accident there that caused 13 deaths and left two missing: A passenger quarreled with and attacked the driver, and the latter lost control of the bus while fighting back.

That is, doubtless, a great tragedy. Yet a comment, which went viral online on Saturday, blamed all the passengers on the bus for “standing idle” when the fight happened between the bus driver and the troublemaking passenger.

To quote his sentence: “When the fight happened, they thought it was none of their business. There were several young men, who could have easily separated the mad female attacker from the driver, but they just stood there, doing nothing, until the bus lost control.”

The author of the comment, who runs a popular WeChat public account, is quite a professional in drawing eyeballs. He knows that the more he utters radical words, the more people will spread them. Blaming victims proves to be one of the most effective ways of gaining attention.

However, his starting point is contrary to modern values, which emphasize responsibility, rights and duties. In this case, it is definitely the attacker who should bear the primary blame, while the driver, who failed in his duties by fighting back, is also partly responsible. That is the most basic principle in the accident.

Regarding the passengers who were victims, it would have been good if they had stood up and fought off the attacker, but that was not their responsibility. Nor would it have been professional for them to do so. Clarifying who is responsible for the accident is the necessary prerequisite for preventing it from happening again in the future. What we can learn from the Chongqing bus accident is to amend the law and improve law enforcement, so that anyone who dares to attack bus drivers gets the deserved legal penalty. Bus companies must also better train their drivers, so they will ensure safety first during any future emergencies.

These are the rules that the society must improve on and effectively obey. Only when the rules are respected can we prevent similar tragedies from happening again. A healthy, modern society should be based on stable, reliable rules, not random heroic deeds.

The author is a professor on public management at Hainan University.

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