Post author plays trick to fish for sympathy and raise money for needy family. Moral debate: Is it right to lie and hype for altruism?

March 25, 2011Jing GaoNo Comments, , , , , , , , , , , ,

It all started from a post on the web. According to the post on Tianya, one of China’s most popular online forum, Xie Sanxiu (谢三秀) is the mother of a 6-month-old baby girl named Hou Shanshan (侯珊珊) who was diagnosed with eye cancer four months ago. Her family has spent all their savings and can no longer afford the colossal sum of medical expense for her daughter’s treatment. So she intended to seek help on the web.

A net user who went by the name “Rich Son in Guangzhou” (广州富家公子) commented on the post, “There are so many people who need help in the world. Why you deserve it? Not everyone in the society has a loving heart. You said you are willing to exchange your own life for your child’s health. Empty talk. Who can believe you? What about crawling on your knees a kilometer (0.7 mile)? Then I can donate 20,000 to you right away.”

Therefore, on the afternoon of March 22, the mother Xie carried her baby girl along and crawled from Guangzhou’s thoroughfare all the way to the sports center, only to be told by a sympathetic Tianya moderator “Jinquan Young Swordsman” (金泉少侠) that “Rich Son in Guangzhou” is not going to keep his promise. “She was basically humiliating herself,” “Rich Son” told “Young Swordsman.”


Xie Sanxiu crawls on her knee on Guangzhou's street, holding her baby.


The internet uproar over the cruel heart of “Rich Son” turned into the outpouring of love and help. Within two days, more than 280,000 yuan (roughly US$43,000) flooded into Xie’s bank account.

Then the story took an unexpected twist. Tianya, exposed that after their tracking of web IP, it is beyond doubt that “Rich Son in Guangzhou” and “Jinquan Young Swordsman” are the same person named Shi Jinquan (石金泉), who is a well-experienced web hyper specializing in creating sensation and catapulting unknown people to fame or stardom on the web. The whole thing is a brilliantly orchestrated show. Tianya has dismissed the moderator.

It has dawned on net users that their compassion has been manipulated by a vicious lie. They feel sad that the society has been in a serious trust crisis again. They bombarded the mastermind Shi with ferocious words. Shi responded to the accusation by conceding it is a publicity stunt. However, he said the media shouldn’t have laid bare the truth. The media should have let him go on with the “white lie” to achieve the primary purpose of raising money for the family in need.

Xie Sanxiu: “Thank kind-hearted people.”

Xie Sanxiu said to Guangzhou Daily over the phone that thanks to the media coverage, many kind-hearted people called her to console her and donate money to her. At the same time, she wanted to tell potential contributors through the media that no more contribution is needed. (Guangzhou Daily, March 24)

Xie said that at first, she turned to various media in Guangzhou for help. No reporter came over. She once held her baby in her arms and kneeled in front of the hospital to beg money; it didn’t work out well. “If it were not for him, I wouldn’t have got so much donation,” Xie said of the hyper. As for the question put forth by the netizen that if she cooperated with “Jinquan Young Swordsman” in the publicity stunt, the women form a rural village in Jinzhou, Hubei province looked very puzzled, “What publicity stunt? What web hyper? I don’t know.” (Youth Times)

However, Shi Jinquan disclosed that Xie was in the know before crawling. “I told my plan to Xie Sanxiu. She was in disbelief and found it hard to understand or accept,” Shi said he spent an entire day before he persuaded her, “You went to media before, and you’ve posted the article on the web. Several months have been spent, and no one bothers. It proves the ordinary route doesn’t work,” Shi said to Xie. However, Xie still had a lot of scruples and misgivings, “She asked me if it is wrong, how to do it appropriately, what if the reporter approaches her. Many questions. She thought over it for a day and finally agreed,” Shi said. (Guangzhou Daily, March 26)


Xie Sanxiu takes a break on Guangzhou's street after crawling on her knees for a while.

Jinquan Young Swardsman: “Saving a life is more important than moral ethics.”

Shi Jinquan, the one who scripted the entire story behind the curtain, said to Guangzhou Daily that as a web hyper who have masterminded multiple internet and media sensations, he did it purely out of good will this time. He didn’t charge a penny. Instead, he gave 300 yuan to Xie out of his own pocket. “The worst link in the entire chain of events is that the media exposed the inside story… If this were to go on, it would be a really good cause.”

“Yes, it is hype,” he conceded after a bit of silence and ponder. He said like most net users, he and Xie Sanxiu were total strangers. He did not know his family ordeal until he read the post. Then he spend an evening working out the entire hype plan.

“I really can’t sit there with my arms crossed. It is a child who gets really ill. Now is the critical moment,” he said, “The society is so nonchalant. There are so many posts out there on the forum crying for help. No one bothers to offer help.” It seemed to Shi Jinquan that in order to raise the life-saving money, there was no better way than that, “I was really forced to do it.”


Shi Jinquan, or Jinquan Young Swordsman, accepts interview after his scheme has been debunked.

Shi Jinquan has been placed in the whirlpool of the public opinion after his hype was debunked. He said with hesitation that such hype has indeed crossed the bottom line of social morals. “But saving a life is more important than moral ethics.” He said emphatically and repeatedly, “I didn’t take a penny from the whole thing.”

“(The exposure) has brought about a big harm to the society. Trust and integrity of the entire society has been endangered as a result. I think the media shouldn’t have uncovered me,” he said angrily. He thinks that if the truth weren’t laid bare, it might have the best ending.

Does the end justify the means?

Ever since the announcement came out in Tianya warning netizens against the hype, netizens who were full of sympathy have suddenly realized that they have fallen into pits, and zeroed in on Shi Jinquan.

笑楚:Someone said it is forgivable if the purpose is good will. But playing prank on the public good will for a single life is definitely not recommendable. The public good will cannot be toyed with. Saving one life has cost the trust of the entire cyberspace and society, and depleted the social good will.


Xie has won money from sympathizers, but the society may have got more trust issues to deal with.

However, there are also voices who support him for his well-meant deed.

杨老文:Emotionally, I despise the web hyper. Reasonably speaking, he did assist the mother who was driven to desperation.  

中国二肥麦: “Jinquan Young Swordsman” racked his brain with good intentions to involve the mother and the daughter in the show and draw people’s attention to her baby with cancer. Is there anything wrong with it? If it were not for this show, the child’s cancer would have killed her.

xhehi5188:During the process of Jinquan Young Swordsman’s hype, there ought to be a villain who enrage netizens. The more enraged netizens become, the more sympathetic they turn toward the helpless mother and daughter. “Rich Son in Guangzhou” played the key role of switching netizens rage to compassion.

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