Li Weiwei, an 8-year-old girl, drowned in a river while attempting to rescue a friend in southwest China's Sichuan Province in April. The local government filed an application to posthumously award her a special title for her heroic actions, but the application was denied by higher-level authorities, stating that "acting boldly to help others should not be encouraged among minors." Just a few months later, however, Li's award was approved and granted.
To protect others from injury or dangerous situations, regardless of one's own safety, is a virtue that has long been admired and commended. However, should we honor a minor who risks his or her own life to save others?
Some agree that the upper-level government was right to initially deny the award. Others believe the decision to honor Li for her bravery and selflessness should not be influenced by other factors, and thus the application should not have been questioned. Far more complicated than whether or not an honorary title should have been awarded, however, is how we should educate children to help others in danger, and what the government should do in cases similar to Li's.
Wang Xuejin (www.163.com): Sichuan Province's jianyiyongwei (acting selflessly for righteousness) foundation has made it clear that there is no specific clause in the provincial regulations regarding the honoring of minors who perform such acts. It also said that because Li was a minor, she did not have the full mental or physical capacity for her civil conduct. Therefore, her actions that were taken without awareness of the dangers do not legally qualify as "acting selflessly for righteousness."
Additionally, it has yet to be discussed whether Li's conduct was truly conscientious or noble. An 8-year-old with undeveloped cognition hardly possess a clear understanding of "righteousness" or "selflessness." Aiding her companion who fell into the river was simply a basic human reaction.
Should a child of that age understand these concepts, and recall learning from his or her parents or teachers about rescuing a drowning person, such an education of "selfless devotion" goes against the very nature of children's growth or safety. It's not in the interests of minors to encourage such sacrifices.
Wang Yunfan (Beijing Times): Awarding a minor the title of jianyiyongwei inevitably involves the publicity of his or her heroic deed, which is equivalent to advocating and encouraging such behavior. However, not bestowing an award does not affect the public's perception of the "young hero."
It is reported that the local authorities reversed their initial decision, later awarding Li the title, because they listened to public opinion. Despite this change of heart, the debate continues. The decision of rewarding Li may meet with no less opposition than the previous decision to deny the award.
To the local authorities' credit, they respected and responded to public outcry. But such sentiments of the general public tend to be multi-directional. No matter how fierce the contention, decision-making should first and foremost be based on the law. More attention should be focused on the legal stipulations that state minors should not be encouraged to engage in risky and potentially deadly behavior for the sake of others.