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Juvenile hero evokes debate
( 2004-01-15 22:40) (China Daily)

Call the police or heroically fight a criminal suspect single-handed?

That is the dilemma that seems to be faced by every child in China.

For five decades, Chinese students have been taught to fight street crimes or rush into a fire to save others so he or she should become a hero, with the spirit of selflessness being promoted to the nation's children.

However, a debate on how a child should behave when he or she faces such a danger escalated sharply over the past couple of days nationwide.

The debate was triggered off recently by a late juvenile hero.

Lai Ning (1974-1988), a native of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, who died during his efforts to put out a forest fire when he was only 14 years old.

In November 1988, Lai was named a "revolutionary martyr'' and rose to prominence as an example for others to follow.

Juveniles are physically weaker than adults, but when faced with a crime, should we encourage children to do what is right even when they are exposed to extreme danger or just ask them not to be so bravely?

But it has been widely rumoured recently that the portraits of Lai, which originally hung on the walls of primary and middle schools, are being removed.

Earlier last year, the clause encouraging juveniles to put themselves forward for a just cause was also deleted from the behaviour criterion for primary and middle school students.

Sun Hongyan, deputy director of the Beijing-based Research Institute for Children, told China Daily the Beijing municipal government revised the criterion out of a consideration that minors are not only the treasured offspring of their parents, but also the priceless wealth of a country, and they are entitled to protection and the right to grow up healthily.

"So when minors are confronted with a crime or are in great danger, they should protect themselves first,'' she said.

"And we are still hesitating whether to draw up a law ordering compensation or a prize for those who show bravery in dangerous situations, since we fear that it would encourage juveniles to take risks,'' the official added.

The director also said they had considered many factors when they initially set up Lai as an example, and they also introduced many other of Lai's morals such as curiosity and honesty.

However, it seems that Lai only impressed people with his death from putting out a fire.

For instance, a teacher at Dingfuzhuang Middle School -- which is wrongly reported to have removed Lai from wall -- knew nothing about Lai apart from his putting out the fire.

In addition, others argued that if children are merely imbued with self-protection concepts during their time at school, a critical period in forming their outlook on life, they won't be courageous and selfless in the future.

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