Zero tolerance to moral degradation

Updated: 2010-08-10 07:57

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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Recently, 40 billionaires joined The Giving Pledge, launched by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, his wife Melinda and investor Warren Buffett, to donate at least half their wealth to charity.

Both Gates and Buffett are hoping their campaign will see commitments of at least $600 billion by the wealthy both within and outside the United States.

In Hong Kong, tycoon Li Ka-shing pledged last Thursday to donate more than HK$10 billion over the next 30 years.

Contrast this with recent developments of a less honorable nature on the Chinese mainland.

For weeks, real estate investor Yu Jinyong has shamelessly defended the doctoral degree he and several others have received from the Pacific Western University, widely known as a diploma mill. Both Yu and Tang Jun, the former Microsoft China president who was accused of fabricating his educational background, had received their PhDs from the same university.

Over the past weeks, after he was exposed for indulging in several alleged business frauds, Yu vowed to take legal action against 15 news organizations. He demanded 50 million yuan in compensation from each of them. "I will defeat them financially and let them know how it must feel to die," he said.

In his defense of Tang Jun, Yu claimed in front of millions of TV viewers that the truth about Tang's diploma was unimportant as long as his career was a success.

Just one day after Yu's press conference on August 3, Guo Degang, a cross-talk performer who shot to stardom four years ago, was in the spotlight for referring to his apprentice - who had beaten up a Beijing Television journalist - as a "national hero." Guo also wanted to reward the heroic student with a "solo show."

Later on stage, Guo derided his neighbors, who had accused him of encroaching upon public land, as "a bunch of dirty poor people".

Guo's outrageous remarks have certainly gotten him into trouble. His show has been declared "vulgar" and his book and videos have been taken off the shelves from major bookstores in Beijing.

I am not a fan of government interference in such matters. But, just as the failure of market mechanisms called for government intervention during the financial crisis, the freefall in our society's moral standards has caused such a crisis that only strong and immediate action can put a halt to it.

While Guo's words were condemnable, the cheer and applause from the audience after he made his comments was even more disturbing.

So were the expressions of support for Guo by some netizens on discussion boards as well as by those patrons who continue to go to Guo's performances.

It shows that many in the general public cannot tell right from wrong. That is the real tragedy of all these recent farces.

Why is Tang Jun still refusing to apologize? Why would he dismiss the public questioning as just media hype, during an alumni meeting at his high school in Changzhou, Jiangsu province? Why would Yu Jinyong dare to publicly defend such a man and feel no remorse at all in front of millions of viewers? And why would Guo dare to insult his neighbors and journalists in such a vile manner?

These are some questions about which we must reflect upon deeply.

I am not for waging a war against these individual performers and businessmen. But, as a nation, we need to collectively decide and demonstrate to our own people and the rest of the world that we don't confuse right from wrong, and that we have certain inalienable moral criteria.

We should not let moral degradation prevail in our society. The message should be loud and unambiguous.


(China Daily 08/10/2010 page8)

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