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The "Sick Man Of Asia" Indeed - China's Disturbing Moral Crisis

Stiffer penalties for baby traffickers are all well and good, but what China really needs is to regain its moral integrity.

"It’s urgent for China to regain its moral moorings"
"It’s urgent for China to regain its moral moorings"
Han Wei

- Op-Ed -

BEIJING — Last month, the wife of Lai Guofong, a villager of Fuping County in the Western province of Shaanxi, gave birth to a baby boy in the local hospital. During the delivery process, Zhang Shuxia, the hospital's deputy director of obstetrics, told the Lai family that the baby suffered from a congenital disease and convinced them to hand over the baby whom she claimed wouldn't survive long.

The next day, the doctor secretly sold the newborn for 21,600 yuans ($3,500). Although the infant has been successfully rescued, the obstetrician's trafficking of the baby, who is actually healthy, has shocked the Chinese public and provoked a great deal of reflection.

China has very strict laws to counter the endless child-trafficking problem. Kidnapping and selling more than three children by use of violence or coercion can carry the death penalty.

But since this case became public, many people are embracing the logic that instituting even stiffer punishments would solve the problem. They don't seem to recognize that these criminal doctors know very well that they're breaking the law. They just believe they can get away with it, so they take the risks for profit. No, what we should be talking about here is not so much investigation and punishment, but rather how to solve the moral crisis these trafficking cases represent.

The most common, ordinary person respects the lives of others and the affection between parents and children. “Doctors are to be like the patients' parents,” the Chinese saying goes. In other words, doctors' moral standards should be unimpeachable, rendering them able to treat patients as if they were their own.

That the doctor in the Fuping case lacked not only the ethics of a physician but also the basic morality of a human being is chilling. With unscrupulous greed, she shamelessly abused the patient's trust.

In China today, such moral issues are neither restricted to doctors nor limited by geography. The pursuit of material wealth seems to have become the Chinese people’s primary faith. Underhanded merchants sell faked and even poisonous food, corrupt officials betray the public's interest for their own benefit, and certain academics are dishonest just to make a few bucks.

This is why it’s urgent for China to regain its moral moorings.

The first step is no doubt to change the way we define success. Money and materialism should not be the only guidance for determining achievement.

Helping other people and valuing a sense of inner contentment can also mark success. As one ancient Chinese proverb puts it, “Unrighteous wealth and richness is as a cloud to me.”

Although severe legal penalties may have a temporary effect in combating human trafficking, to avoid future tragedies China must take other steps to nurture moral integrity. This might be a long hard road, but it's the only acceptable one.

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Blocks of hemp used for house construction.

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