Behind the suicide pact….

Today, People’s court delivered a verdict on the civil dispute which is the first case of suicide pact on the net. Besides one of the defendant, Zhang who should make a 20% compensation of the death, QQ,  are also responsible for 10% compensation.

After reading the news, I feel totally confused and disappointed. Here is the story.

Review of the case

This June, Fan(the boy who killed himself in the suicide pact), a 20-year-old Shanghai University freshman, responded to a suggestion to commit suicide made by 22-year-old university student Zhang in Lishui through QQ, China’s most popular instant messaging service.

The morning of June 22, Fan went to Lishui and met Zhang. Then they went to a hotel room in an attempt to kill themselves by inhaling carbon monoxide. Zhang, however got a headache and left the hotel room while Fan insisted on remaining in the room and finally killed himself.

The parents of Fan sued both Zhang and QQ in September, claiming that Zhang asked Fan to commit suicide while Tencent QQ did not delete or block information about suicide pacts, so it was further disseminated online. Therefore, both were responsible for their son’s death.

The trial has provoked concerns over what sort of liability or accountability internet service providers have in preventing suicides.

Why blame on QQ

The result baffles me as QQ is only a legal communication tool for people to chat and keep in contact. Why such popular and quite handy tool become a thorn in the court and bear joint responsibility?

Suicide itself, is out of their own willing. If they want to commit suicide, they can still arrange a suicide pact through telephone, letter or other media.

I admit that somehow media should bear joint responsiblity, like TV advertisements. If we turn back on misleading and deceptive ads, we will undoubtably feed the illegal action.

But this case is not that simple. Broadcast media faces public information whilst QQ deals with private information. In essence, QQ has no right to spy upon user’s information. It’s like the post office and telecommunication company has no right to pry into your letter or eavesdrop calls.

Responsibility is not equal to the right

Therefore, how does QQ implement their responsibility of supervision? The court judged QQ bear joint responsibility, in other word, they ask QQ to infringe upon users’ privacy, which is illegal. If I don’t have a bad memory, the fight between QQ and Qihu360, the former became a universal condemnation just because they spy upon users’ information.

One foundation of the law is the responsibility should correspondence to the right. In this case, if you asked me to supervise, you should entitle the right.

Screening out words is not wise

Some people may argue that QQ should delete or screen out some sensitive words. My answer is, don’t you think too many words already stayed sensitive in the net world? And I still remember last year, because of the power of internet, a girl who attempted to commit suicide was rescued.

This is only because the girl post the thought online before she attempted to commit a suicide. People who saw the message called the police immediately and finally save the girl’s life.

As QQ stated that the company had more than 500 million users who send an immense amount of online information every day. Moreover, QQ is an individual communication tool which is almost impossible to monitor or supervise. And the use of the word”suicide” is not illegal and that screening out such words might infringe on user rights.

Deleting or screening out words is an unbearable burden for net company. Because the simple action may do harm to some innocence. 50,000RMB compensation is not much for a net company, but if the circumstance of  the result is that more words are shielded and harsh supervison followed by, it will be a heavy toll for internet development, as well as civilian’s freedom of speech.

Marshall McLuhan once warned us that we should avoid the danger of turning the global village to a police station, that the right people enjoyed off-line can’t be guaranteed online.

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Social role of media in China【Part 2】

“There’s no specific provision about protecting journalists’rights in Chinese law.”

——Jiang Zhan,Director of Media and Communication Department under Youth Politics College in China

Although media environment in China is improved dramatically in recent years, we still can’t neglect some bad news which shows a warning of potential danger.

Media reticence

Media Reticence is a negative way of controlling the society. For instance, at the very beginning of SARS in 2003, when our people desire to know the truth and how serious the virus is, our media suddenly turned their backs on reporting, remained reticence. This caused the vacancy of public opinion supervision and put a threat on public’s right to know.

As Joseph Pulitzer addressed:” If a nation can be compared to a large vessel at sea, then the journalists are its watch-keepers who timely report the treacherous shoals and hidden dangers to ensure the safe journey of the vessel.”

Trial by media

This has become a universal phenomenon and can be seen almost everywhere. People right now are so astonished to know how huge power media owns. Trial by media is the abuse of power and will tip the scales between the freedom of press and judicial independence.

Amplify the crisis

Apart from that, in Chinese media industry, some media really plays a negative role by amplifying the crisis and provoking the panic. This is probably because they want to go after tall hit and attract more eyeballs. A case here is called “Active News”. It was produced by Apple Daily, a tabloid in Taiwan. They post a bunch of videos with authentic simulation of sexual persecution, violence, suicide, crimes on their websites, and finally sparked a series of protest in Taiwan.

According to BBC Guideline, “We’ll ensure detailed descriptions or demonstrations of criminal techniques which could enable the commission of illegality are not included on our services unless clearly editorially justified.” Apple Daily absolutely violated the professional ethics of journalism.

Given the two sides of the coin, how can we balance the freedom of the press and responsibility of the media?

As a platform between the government and civilians, the mass media plays an important and irreplaceable role in building civil society. Especially in this transforming stage in China, how to balance the freedom of press and responsibility of the media is a bid challenge. As a diagram shows,

On the one hand, as an extension of government’s will, the mass media is responsible for building a platform to express civilian’s opinions.

On the other hand, because of the interference of social environment and the dependence upon government, they fail to find the balance and end up with numerous misleading advertisements, vulgarity just for profits and audience ratings.

So it is a warning for Chinese media industry: It will only cause side-effect if they pursue the freedom of the press at the cost of neglecting media responsibility.

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Social role of media in China 【Part 1】

“If a nation can be compared to a large vessel at sea, then the journalists are its watch-keepers who timely report the treacherous shoals and hidden dangers to ensure the safe journey of the vessel.”

——Joseph Pulitzer

Two theories

In Chinese media circle, a theory is universally recognised, named Bee Theory. Chinese scholars deem that media should functioned as a bee, which implies three facets.

First of all, it is a messenger. Our media should build a bridge between the truth and the people. Besides that, it should offer honey, which means it should benefits its readers. In the meantime, it is with spinosity. In other words, it should be critical, other than resign to authority.

Another theory, which I agreed very much, is put forward by Wilbur Schramm, who consider the media as a radar of the society. In his theory, everyone has a social map to orient their social position. The more accurate social map is ,the more prosperous individual development will be.

Therefore, to draw accurate social map, people have to keep collecting information and update them in accordance with the change of social environment.  The action of collecting information is called social radar action. And media, is an important “radar of the society”.

Four function of media

When it comes to practice, there’re four functions of media which have already become a guideline in Chinese media circle. These are offer information, guide public opinion,education and entertainment.

People in western countries are curious about the current situation of this issue in China. That’s what I’m going to tell you, both sides of the coin.

Good news

The first thing I want to mention is openness. Here the word “openness” means both open to Chinese media itself and open to the rest of the world. On 9 October 2009, World Media Summit was held in Beijing, which demonstrated Chinese government’s willing to further open to the western media.

Market-oriented. On 28 August 2009, China News, a central-level newspaper sponsored by All-China Journalists Association announced to close down. This incident fully exposed market has become a priority in media practice.

Thriving social media. The web technologies allow citizens and community groups to perform some communicative functions that were previously controlled by media institution. As a result, the hierarchical structure of owners, producers and audience is flattened. There’s an obvious change from one-fold media environment to all-dimensional media power circle. Eventually, it will not only change the way of reporting news, but also challenge the traditional mode of “We write, you read”.

Continuing….

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To be a journalist,never comes easy

A good journalist, should learn to rethink profoundly all the time. The process of introspection, leads better journalistic work.

I was on the scene to report the news on 24 November. Given the chance to witness the student protest at rising tuition fee and education cuts in UK, is unforgettable.  Checking the work we’ve done today, while immersed in the sense of satisfaction, I start to ponder what we lack, and what we need to improve.

Details matter the most

The first thing came to my mind is details. As my colleagues said, they didn’t know where we were and what time it was when we sent the message about the development of the story. It is a major mistake for experienced journalists. It’s like you interviewed some people but forget to ask their names.

We can say that it is all because  we lack experience, but this is the thing we should learn in advance.

Never lose sense of journalism

Motivate all sense of journalism. This is not easy, in particular, for green hands. When we were  attracted by a violence, it seems that we totally forget that we are still a reporter, that we should keep an eye on the surroundings and remain searching for news.

I feel shameful when Constantine,one of our teacher told us there is a bleeding man with head wound. It is supposed to be our job to find the news and report them. However, all of us were totally indulged in the atmosphere of intensive violence.

Always be prepared

I remember one of our guest speaker said that a good journalist can always predict what is going to happen. As a result, they can  prepare all the time regardless of any tough situation.

When I saw so many professional photographers standing by at a best view spot, I know very well that I made a mistake. There’s no good spot left for unprepared photographer. Therefore, I let best picture slip away.

This is also true when we make an interview with officials. When we tried to interview some police during the protest, we got nothing. “I don’t know”, this is, probably because they didn’t want to tell you, but most importantly, they didn’t have time to take the interview since they were keeping order.

Fortunately, we interviewed the police before the protest as they still got time to talk to you. Nevertheless, if we predicted that the police would not take the interview, we should have asked them more questions.

We still have a long way to go, of being a good journalists. There’re so many things for us to learn, so many failures for us to grow. We should be grateful to report this important event while having a chance to watch professionals from BBC, Guardians reported the story.

It is a first lesson to me in reality, after stood 7 hours under the plunging winter temperatures, that is, to be a journalist never comes easy.

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When festival turned catastrophe

Thousands of people stampeded during a festival in the Cambodian capital yesterday night, killing more than 300 and injuring 410.

The news itself no longer shocked us. Probably only the casualties drew our attention. It’s hard to count how many stampedes occurred during this year so far. It is the biggest misfortune, if not the only, such tragedy occurred once again after a series of dreadful stampedes.

It should be a festive atmosphere followed by a happy ending. People in Cambodia were celebrating the end of the rainy season on a silver of land in a river. We can’t stop thinking how come a traditional festival turned into a huge tragedy with tears and loss.

Stampeded in Germany

It is still vividly in my mind that the tragedy happened in 24 July, Germany.  A friend of mine who study in Germany called me with crying. She was to have attended that parade, and now her friend was injured and sent to hospital.

My friend is lucky, but she has gone through a  psychological trauma. She still can’t go to a place full of crowds by herself.

The parade is in the name of love, not the devil. 19 people killed in this dance music festival is beyond imagination. It reminds me of Taking Woodstock in 60s. Similar theme, similar insanity, lots of people attended. Difference is,  no stampede, even at that date.

Never learn the lesson

It baffles me every time when I figure out more developed of our society, more tragedies accompanied by. Enjoying freedom should be paid. Problem is, after series of same tragedies, human beings failed to learn their lessons.

It is wrong to open only one entrance knowing that nearly one million people would attend the festival. Though still under investigation, it’s worth oppugning that it was well-organised one-way pass or disorderly double-flow on the bridge at that day. Because if it is latter, that could be fatal reason of the tragedy.

Large-scale public events hold nearly every day around the world. How to avoid similar tragedy is extremely urgent. No one wants to see a mourning  after a happy festival.  Hope this catastrophe in Cambodia will be the last one.

Background

14 January, in West Bengal, east of India, a stampede killed 7 people and injured 17.

25 February, Timbuktu, northwest of Mari, a stampede killed 24 people and injured 20.

4 March, India, a serious stampede followed by 60 people died.

30 April, Haryana, northwest of India, a stampede killed 5 people.

16 May, New Delhi, capital of India, a stampede happened in a station killing 2 people and injuring 15.

24 July, Duisburg, Germany, a stampede at the Love Parade dance music festival  killed 19 people.

16 October, Bihar, northeast of India, a stampede happened at a temple leading 10 people dead.

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We See the Flower of Hope, Behind Cry

“I start to respect the people in Shanghai at this moment”. A Chinese netzien said.

Mourn victims

21 November was the seventh day after the fire in Shanghai, a day that the Chinese believe the dead revisit their families before leaving for good . Thousands of people flocked to the charred frame of a apartment building, where the tragedy killing 58 people occured.

Tearful family members of the victims  began arriving at first, laying flowers and wreaths before portraits of their deceased loved ones.

Surprisely, they were joined by local residents, who come all the way from different area of Shanghai only to show their  condolence. They were clutching white or yellow  chrysanthemums and standing quietly in line to place the the flowers in front of the high-rise building.

Police, at this time, seems to be needless. The whole city surrounded by sorrow and tears. A self-formed symphony orchestra played funeral songs. While among the crowd, paper notices with the words “Don’t cry, Shanghai” were handed out.

Hope behind cry

A famous commentator in China said, “I used to be pessimistic about the sociey. When I saw so many people in Shanghai, organised by themselves, come all the way to present flowers and support the family who lost their beloved ones, I feel the word, ‘hope’.”

For China, a nation in its new-political era, all these actions are of great significance and preciousness. Nationalism, shows the postive meaning this time.

We once feel sad that people in other cities or areas are becoming numb and indifferent when a barrage of accidents, like mine disaster happened. However, this time, people in Shanghai, dubbed as selfish, mean by some people in other part of China, shows their solidarity.

This incident reminds me of some comments after Wenchuan earthquake. When all the reconstruction was under way at that time, scholors in China appeal for arsing citizens’ awareness of unity. As they outlined, the entity home can be rebuilt. Most importantly, Chinese people’s spritual home also need to be recounstructed.

It will be a huge shame for our society that thriving economy are at the cose of losing national cohesion.

Thanks to the Shanghai people, we once again pick up the lost piece of national spirit. Rest in peace to the victims, and may the spirit carrying forward.

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Why lose the lawsuit?

Journalists ranks the third in a ranking list of the most dangerous job in China.

Google “journalists beaten”, you can get 342,000 results.

However, I’m not going to talk about how dangerous the journalists’ personal safety is. I just want to focus on the rate of media losing press defamation lawsuits in recent years.

Relevant law in China.

The Right of Reputation. Article 101 of General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China prescribes “Citizens and legal persons shall enjoy the right of reputation. The personality of citizens shall be protected by law, and the use of insults, libel or other means to damage the reputation of citizens or legal persons shall be prohibited”.Article 120 further identifies the civil liability of infringement upon the right of reputation, “If a citizen’s right of personal name, portrait, reputation or honor is infringed upon, he shall have the right to demand that the infringement be stopped, his reputation be rehabilitated, the ill effects be eliminated and an apology be made; he may also demand compensation for losses. The above paragraph shall also apply to infringements upon a legal person’s right of name, reputation or honor”. 【General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China (1986) English version from http://www.law-info.cn/lawyer/shewai06d/f2.html.】

Statistics

The rate of media losing press defamation lawsuits from 170 cases in recent years:

China

63%

USA

9%

(Statistics were provided by Zhiwu Chen, professor of financial economics under the Yale school of management.)

The rate of media losing press defamation lawsuits according to different plaintiff:

Country/Plaintiff

Public Figure or Government Official

Ordinary Citizens

China

65.07%

60.94%

USA

4%

24%

(Statistics of China were provided by judicial circles and academic community. Statistics of USA were provided by media and communication department of Lowa University as well as American Libel Defense Resource Center.)

The difference is quite obvious from statistics. It’s time to answer why the rate of media losing press defamation lawsuits in China has been much higher than that in western countries. What’s worse is the compensation coming to journalists themselves. Here is a famous case which somebody called it 11 September event in China’s press circles.

Foxconn Case

On 15th June 2006, First Financial Daily published an article on C5 page headline about overtime work in Foxconn Company, titled “Employees of Foxconn Punished to Stand for 12 Hours”. This report sparked a great disturbance in China. Later, Foxconn claimed that this report was untrue and infringed upon their right of reputation. In July, the company sued You Wang, who wrote this report and Bao Weng, editor of First Financial Daily, making a claim for compensation of ¥30,000,000. They also made request of property preservation.

As a result, the court sealed up cars, house property as well as deposit of You Wang and Bao Weng. On 30 August, Foxconn withdrew the application of frozen assets while added First Financial Daily as their object of litigation. Under the pressure of public opinion and protest among press circles, Foxconn made revocation proceedings and reached a settlement with First Financial Daily on 3rd September.

On the surface, media ended in victory. However, this event is definitely not that simple. Why this case has an influential meaning and called 11 September event in China’s press circles? This is not only because the compensation hit a record high of history, but also a challenge to the right of public opinion supervision and violation of freedom of the press. Most importantly, it exposes pitfalls of the law, the Right of Reputation as well as case hearing.

Two pitfalls in the law and case hearing

Conversion for burden of proof. In judicial practice, media shoulder the burden of proof in press defamation lawsuits rather than plaintiff. On the one hand, this is against the principle of who advocates, whose quote by law. On the other hand, this violates the regular pattern of journalistic work. What’s worse, the judge in China normally use the principle of Doctrine of Presumption, which means as long as media or journalists can’t proof there’s no mistake at all in their reports, the judge can presume their fault. It is unfair and controversial when it comes to journalistic work, featuring timeliness and firsthand information. They have limited time to check every detail before publish the report, let alone guarantee all the resources they got are absolutely accurate. News report is not court verdict, which keep everything record. It is impossible for any media to retain the evidence of every publication.

On contrary, the lawsuit of press defamation in American is quite different and the case hearing is more reasonable. In the lawsuits, plaintiffs shoulder the burden of proof. This is especially more favorable to media after the famous New York Times Co.V.Sullivan1964 case. Most importantly, they put forward the principle of Actual Malice, which has become a guideline of later lawsuits. From this perspective, our law related to reputation infringement and case hearing should be improved so as to solve the problem of high rate of media losing lawsuits, and eventually promote better journalism.

Inclined protection. One thing need to be noticed in the case of Foxconn is the action by court. Why the court took immediate action by sealing up You Wang and Bao Weng’s personal property before identify the truth? This is neither legal nor reasonable. However, it reflects inclined protection between constitutional rights and civil rights in China.

In most cases, judge favored the latter. Our law prescribes that plaintiff and defendant shall be equal, yet in judicial practice, judge tends to lay more emphasis on the protection of the right of personality than the freedom of speech and press. Another deep reason for this action is, the operation of protecting constitutional rights is difficult and insufficient compared with the protection of civil rights. Because the latter has specific substantive and procedural legal basis while the former doesn’t.

The number of press defamation lawsuits is on the increase arising from public opinion supervision. If the exercise of one right frequently violates another right, it means there are some defects on the content of the right itself, which need to be amended.

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Fire! Fire! Fire!

A fire has engulfed a high-rising building in Shanghai on Monday, killing at least 42 people and injuring 90 while sending thick smoke billowing across the city.

Rescue work

The police, firefighters, public health, Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief Office as well as other department came to the scene and launched the rescue work after the fire happened.

More than 25 groups of firefighters and hundred of fire engines were sent to the scene for the rescue.

It took several hours to control the fire which started from early afternoon. Official said to Shanghai Television that all injured were evacuated to different hospitals.

Mr. Wei, a witness living in this area said to the reporter from sina:” It’s so scary. I feel like flames is in every window. It makes me weak at the knees.”

Possible course

The building was being renovated when the fire broke out. Official said the building was home to a number of retired teachers with 156 families in total.

The course of this fire is still under investigation. But witnesses said the construction material could be a main culprit, especially the scaffolding as it aggravated the spread of flames.

Recall from survivor

Some survivors escaped from the danger by clambering down the scaffolding.

Mr Zhou, one of the survivor told the reporter from sina:” I was awakened by the odor of smoke. Then I and my wife climbed down the scaffolding. About ten minutes later, we saw the firefighters and they helped us get out of here.”

Analysis from experts

Experts said that the fire accident shows the disadvantage of high-rising buildings because they can easily spread the flames. In the meantime, they will increase the difficultly of rescue work.

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Tears in Heaven

An old lady on her wheelchair was coming to the War Memorial in Harow. She struggled to stand up, a small step by step, finally moved to the base of memorial. Carefully but solemnly, she  put the wreach at the cenotaph.

After that, she stood for a longer time than other representives did, just staring at the memorial and thinking, or remembering. Then she came back to her wheelchair with someone’s help. Her black wool cap can’t hide her pain and sorrow when she took a tissue to wipe her tears.

The hymns kept playing, while the lady sat on her wheelchair still regardless of the heavy rain. If those tears can be seen in heaven, her family member who died in second world war will notice how painful these lady has been gone through.

Today, nearly 200 people attended the Remembrance Day parade and service in Harrow, while the commemorations are held nationwide started from 11 November. As a annual ceromony, this has already become a tradition in UK. During these days, every citizens will wear a poppy to commemorate those people who died in the two world wars.

“If I’m still healthy, I’ll keep coming”, said by a 93-year-old veteran who once served for the second world war.

“It’s all about memory and remembrance. If there’s anything I can say, I would say no more war.”

This year, the Royal British Legion focus more on the victims of recent confilct, which shows more significance as UK military losses in Afghanistan.

Nothing we can do today to compensate the sorrow of losing family members. But a moment to let people still alive engrave on their minds that tragedy shall not be repeated is of great importance.

And that is, all the meaning of the Remembrance Day.

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“I’m not homesick”

It is always an interesting thing when  cultural differences occurred.  You’re always impressed and shocked by how many differences on a person’s way of thinking there are.

Talking with friends from other countries is always full of surprise and rewarding. Through their words, you can get access to understand the mentality and culture of the whole nation they represented.

Homesick or not?

Today, a friend from Germany told me that she is not homesick at all,  and she asked  me. I said:” I feel homesick very strongly recent days. It’s like a peaking period.” She was so surprised and asked,” why are you homesick? What is it about?” “I miss my parents and friends, even miss the food, my bedroom and everything in my hometown”.

This is probably a common answer for an ordinary Chinese student like me. The most frequent sentence I heard from my Chinese friends who are also studying in UK  is “I want to go back home”.

Different mentality bearing on tradition and culture

There’re a bunch of reasons for that. Pressure, tight schedule, food, weather, friend, language disadvantage, to name just a few. But most importantly, is due to our tradition, that there’s a very close emotional connection among family members.

” I leave home when I was 16, so basically I’m quite used to live alone.” my German friend told me.  This is their tradition, or the tradition of most western countries. Youngsters tend to leave home and live alone when they grow up.

However, this is quite rare in China, a country lays so much emphasis on family affection and kinship.

The product of this tradition is that parents in China tend to give their full love and everything to their children. They love their children more than themselves. Knowing this fact, you can easily understand why the tuition fee of most Chinese student is paid by their parents, which shocked my friends from other countries at first time.

“I have to work extra to afford my tuition fee”, some of my friends from other countries told me. And they indeed work very hard.

This phenomenon can also explain why western students turn to be more mature and independent than Asian students(according to my knowledge, situation in Japan is the same with that in China.)

It’s hard to say which one is better because they both have advantages and disadvantages. And it is difficult to change  because the tradition rooted such deep in different nations. What matters most is when cultural shock occurred due to this difference, people can treat it in a cool and wise manner.

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