China / Society

Reporter's log: Respect for life is needed to prevent tragedies

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-04 07:49

When I arrived at a hospital that had received dozens of the wounded from Saturday's explosion at an auto parts factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, what popped out at me immediately was a man waving a banner at hundreds of onlookers.

"Respect the wounded. Do not take photos," the bright pink lettering on the banner shouted. A young volunteer walked up and down, stopping people from taking pictures of the partially naked burn victims who were being carried one by one out of ambulances.

From that moment on, the first word on the banner - respect - became rooted in my mind and jumped out many time during the day as a whole city mobilized to offer maximum assistance to the rescue effort.

As ambulances transferring patients hurtled along the highways, radios and micro blogs delivered constant updates of their whereabouts and asked nearby drivers to "give way for the green life channel".

As families rushed into the hospital looking for their loved ones, they were escorted to a service counter where they received careful explanations about status and progress.

As the Red Cross called for blood donations for the injured, hundreds of ordinary citizens quickly lined up at the collection vehicles, apparently unfazed by the scandals in recent years that have tarnished the organization's image.

Officials of Kunshan finally appeared for a news conference, apologizing for their late arrival. They stood for 30 seconds in silent tribute to the dead and injured before beginning.

The Kunshan mayor choked with emotion and was nearly unable to speak as he read the casualty list.

When night fell, candles were lit both online and off as people grieved over the lost lives and prayed for those still struggling.

With thriving social networking online, information about tragedies like this can enter the glare of the public spotlight within moments, sometimes leading to insensitive comments. But ordinary people and officials both are learning to behave with a little more respect.

The rescue system becomes more efficient at times like this, as intercity medical cooperation helps match the injured to the best available treatment. And the government's information-distribution system gets better, though there remains much room for improvement in this area.

Everyone seems to be paying respect to those who are suffering.

But I can't stop thinking that all this could be avoided if a little more respect were paid a little earlier to those not yet wounded.

If employers would respect the safety concerns and other demands of their workers, if they established more preventive measures, they could not only save themselves tens of millions of yuan in compensation but years in jail.

If local supervisory authorities would listen to the reports of the hidden dangers at a factory, and then act swiftly and with greater toughness, they might be able to save dozens of lives and the tears of a mayor.

China aims to shift from a labor-intensive growth model to a higher-value-added economy, but if such sweatshops with little respect to their employees continue to operate, China won't win respect on the global stage, despite its title as the world's second largest economy.

After all, respect for the dead cannot bring them back. Only respect for life can make a real difference.

Hot Topics