We’re not talking about trust in the Party or the Chinese government – that has long been lost – but trust among ordinary people. The crave for quick money, fame and power erodes people’s morality and most of them won’t hesitate to assume of the worst in other people. Sometimes it is understandable because in a country like China, if one doesn’t take caution, he is putting himself under the risk of being tricked or harmed. But sometimes, it’s just plain frustrated and depressing.
In the past week, Lu Ruoqing, a beautiful Qingdao girl with leukemia, got viral on Weibo due to…the obvious…her beauty and sunny smiles, but more importantly, her optimism and courage in the face of leukemia and her love of life expressed in her Weibo posts. She wrote down how she fought with her illness on Weibo and accumulated over 360k followers in a few days from less than 200. Many netizens call her the “most beautiful girl.”
But as Lu got popular online and caught national attention, the story took a sudden turn on May 20 when some netizens started to question whether Lu’s story was a public stunt. Some claimed that she was too pretty to be a patient with leukemia. Some thought she was unrealistically optimistic. And some raised concerns of why she never revealed her true identity and address on Weibo, as if to hide something.
Things soon got accelerated. An article “Leukemia girl Lu Ruoqing may be a public stunt, Qingyifu Hospital: Never accepted any patient with the last name of Lu” on May 22 reported that when journalist went to Qingyifu Hospital, the hospital where Lu Ruoqing was diagnosed according to her earlier Weibo posts, there was no record of any patient that fit Lu’s situation and not even anyone with the last name of Lu. Not long after, netizens on Sina Weibo started to take sides and fight over the authenticity of Lu’s story.
Possibly out of pressure and disappointment, Lu Ruoqing deleted all her previous Weibo posts and left only two, saying that she needed to be alone and that she was OK.
“Thanks for caring about me. I can feel your love, but this started to create troubles for my life. I need some alone time for now. Thanks.”
“Just take out the needle. Dear all, I’m very grateful for all that’s happened, good or bad. Thanks for all your love. I think it’s time for me to disappear forever. I’m the happiest girl because of you. Despite all my popularity, I only want to stay low.”
“Recently, leukemia girl Lu Ruoqing has been under the stoplight after she revealed her illness on Sina Weibo. Some netizens raised doubts about the authenticity of the story and questioned whether it was a public stunt. Sina Health got into contact with Lu’s friends, two netizens who have visited her and several local journalists this afternoon, we confirmed that Lu Ruoqing exists (not real name) and her leukemia is real.”
急诊科女超人于莺, physician at Beijing Concord Hospital and famous public figure on Sina Weibo with over 860k followers, also came in to help clear up the mess. With her help, netizens were able to verify that the real name of Lu Ruoqing is Lu Chao and she used to visit Beijing Concord Hospital for her leukemia.
However, voices of doubt never die. For example, verified account @麦田 still had doubts about whether Lu Chao, the real girl with leukemia, was indeed the one behind Lu Ruoqing’s Weibo account.
And the virtual world isn’t the only place where the good is squeezed by the lack of trust. In Zhengzhou, Henan Province, local car owners initiated a green ribbon movement where private car owners volunteer to give free rides to willing hitchhikers. Every participating car has a green ribbon sign that reads “Free Rides”. Much to their dismal, their offers are seldom accepted . Most people think it’s too good to be true in China.
Ye Zhantong, the man who started the initiative, told China News Weekly in an interview: “ I work at Hanghaidong Road but live at Gaoxinquhuagong Road. I need to travel between the South loop and the North loop every day and it’s a long drive. During rush hours, I always see people painfully waiting for taxis or having a hard time getting onto buses. That is what motivated me to start this free ride project. I told the idea to two of my friends. They both agreed to participate and wanted to recruit more people. So we set up a QQ group, calling people to give free rides on their way to and back from work. At peak, we had 500 members. We all tie a green ribbon to our rear mirrors and put up a green sign that reads ‘Free rides. Helping others makes us happy’.”
He even did a calculation. His car takes up to 8 people and he can help an average of 10 people per day. That is over 3000 people a year. If 10% of all the private cars in Zhengzhou can help out, traffic in the city won’t be so jammed and local environment can be significantly improved.
Everything sounds like a fairy tale and China has never been a country for fairy tales. According to Ye: “People don’t trust us.”
“I always run into people who raised doubts. Some even asked whether it’s a fraud. Sometimes I would stop 6 to 7 times on my way and no one takes the free ride. Many ask if they need to pay. I say no. Why most people think it’s normal to charge but abnormal to offer free service? The day before yesterday, an elderly man told me that he would take the ride if and only if I charge him. He insisted to give me 10 yuan for taking him home. I said no to him because to accept the money makes my action an illegal operation.”
Another participating driver Li Jiong commented: “The biggest problem in front of us is that we meant for good but no one trust us. For the people I come across, over 80% don’t trust us. Some particular incidents in the society make everybody super alert and sensitive. I don’t think we lack good will. What we lack is mutual trust among people.”
Even after the story made to national news, many people still think it’s too good to be true.
Poll from Sina Weibo
The best summary comes from netizen 兰佩鲁吉’s comment to the news of Lu Ruoqing: “Trust becomes a luxury of our times. Cooked-up stories and cheating have cashed out too much of our kindness and sympathy. Trust requires extra caution.”