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When the crowd bays for blood

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-18 08:01

When the crowd bays for blood

Zhang Yimou fined 7.48 mln for birth violations

When the crowd bays for blood

Honor the past, live in the present 

It is simply ludicrous that some people see Zhang's violation as if he had committed rape or arson. They argue that a celebrity like him be held up to the highest standard of morality. But the way I see it, his nonobservance has nothing to do with ethics or morality. It is just an issue of legal technicality. The law has embedded a loophole or an exception in the guise of a financial forfeit. It does not mind if people who pay it have more than one child.

Public sentiment can be a force of good or evil. For example, online vigilance has repeatedly brought down corrupt officials. But the impulse to knock down figures of power can be indiscriminate. Some people do not seem to ask themselves whether what Zhang did compromised public interests. Like the Red Guards in the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), they believed that shooting down people like Zhang would create a better world. It does not seem to occur to them that if Zhang had to pay more than legally stipulated, it would be much worse when the same happened to them.

In a widely reposted message on the weibo blog, I defended Zhang, arguing that he should pay the fine only and need not apologize. Those who are pummeling him on the moral high ground are even worse than Javert, the police inspector in Les Miserables who made it his mission to bring Valjean to justice. And Valjean, like Zhang, had done something, like stealing a loaf of bread for starving children, which is technically illegal but that anyone with common sense can understand. The lynch mob has the mentality of the Thenardiers, striving for equality not by lifting themselves up but by knocking others down.

The campaign to strip any citizen, let alone a great artist who has brought his country enormous fame and pride, of basic human dignity is deplorable.

Just let the father be.

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