A Girl Wants To Sell Her Braid To Save Her Mother

(yWeekend)  "Long-Haired Girl Sells Braid To Save Mother" Triggers Internet Battle Over Privacy.  By Ma Jun (马军).  May 10, 2007.

[in translation]

An Internet plea-for-help post entitled <Long-Haired Girl Sells Braid To Save Mother> aroused controversy at the Tianya, Xici and other Internet forums.  The renowned female Guangxi reporter Xiong Qian (熊倩) who gained fame for filing the "one-cent lawsuit" fell seriously ill recently and her 17-year-old daughter posted a plea for help with the offer to sell her 1.5 meter ponytail for the sum of 20,000 RMB.  This girl who is still in second year of high school wanted to "save my poor mother" this way.

For this forum post, the poster, the netizens and the forum administrator had huge differences in opinions to the point where blunt personal attacks were made.  Certain netizens who want to get to the bottom of the case demanded to have access to the private medical history of the patient but they were turned down on grounds of the fact that the case involved female ailments for which the patient's right to privacy must prevail.

So why was a standard Internet plea for help not trusted by many netizens?  What should be protected?  The privacy of the individual who is pleading for help?  Or the public's right to know?

On May 3, an Internet plea for help from someone named "Ah Zhen" appeared at various forums for media workers at QQ, Tianya, Xici and other forums.  After the post appeared at the "Media World" section of Tianya forum, more than 10,000 page views and more than 300 comments were made.

"My name is Ah Zhen.  I am seventeen years old.  I am a second year student at a high school in Liuzhou city, Guangxi province.  My mother Xiong Qian used to be a reporter with the Liuzhou People's Radio ..."  According to the narrative from Ah Zhen, her mother was the female reporter who gained a lot of attention for filing the "one-cent lawsuit."

This plea for help stated: "At 22:00 on the night of April 9, 2007, my mother fainted from bleeding.  She was taken to the hospital and examined.  She was found to have a tumor as well as thrombus in the leg.  She had a high fever.  She was bleeding profusely ..."

"What I need now most of all is money.  But I am still going to school and I have no means of getting money to treat my mother.  The money that I borrowed from my maternal grandfather and relatives have run out to quell the bleeding and fever.  I need contributions from kind-hearted  people to continue medical treatment.  As of now, 14,000 RMB has been spent with the hospital and the most important surgery has not even been carried out yet ..."

"The hospital keeps pressing me to pay for the medical bills.  I don't want to impose more pressure on my mother.  Whenever the hospital sends the medical bills to the patient's room, I snatch them and hide them from my mother because I knew that she would be ever more worried.  But the medical bills keep piling up.  What should I do?"

"I have sold everything that I can sell at home.  I have borrowed from everyone that I know.  But the money for the surgery is still unaccounted for.  I have heard that some people sell blood (or even their bodies) in order to say their mothers.  I am motivated in the same way.  But I am still a minor and I cannot do that."  In order to gather the 20,000 RMB for the surgery, Ah Zhen said that she will sell her 1.6 meter braid which she has treasured so far.

This plea for help was dated April 28 and it explained the thinking of this young girl.  The post also stated that her mother was presently at the Liuzhou People's Hospital in Guangxi and she included her telephone and bank account numbers.

So why did she not plead for help directly and want to sell her braid instead?  Over the telephone, the youngish-sounding Ah Zhen told this reporter: "I don't want to get help from someone for nothing.  This braid may not be worth much to other people, but it means a lot to me.  My mother has helped other people quite often and we don't have a lot in family savings.  What can we do about the very expensive surgery fees?  I am unable to think of any other way?"

At around noon on May 7, a nurse named Liu at the Guangxi Liuzhou People's Hospital told this reporter that Xiong Qian is a patient at the hospital.  She is at bed number 39, after just being transferred from the thrombosis division to the gynecology division and is presently being treated for anemia until as such time as she is ready for surgery.

On the morning of May 8, doctor Chen of the Liuzhou People's Hospital told this reporter that Xiong Qian has uterine cancer as well as massive bleeding.  As of this time, the hospital has spent over 10,000 RMB already and another 10,000 RMB will be needed for the full surgery.  Depending on the state of Xiong Qian's body, the sum may rise to more than 20,000 RMB.

Yet, after the plea was posted on May 3, the reactions of many netizens were surprising.  Concerning this plea entitled <Long-Haired Girl Sells Braid To Save Mother>, the first response was: "I think that the subject title is peculiar ... sell your braid?  This is not like selling your body organ.  Is this any big deal?"

Netizen "Yantaishan" said: "Oh, oh.  Why is the braid worth 20,000 RMB?  And 'only' 20,000 RMB?"

Concerning the fact that the post mentioned that Xiong Qian had a foster daughter, a netizens made the sarcastic remark: "Doesn't she have a foster daughter?  Why can't she just sell the girl?"  Although there are those who expressed sympathy, doubt and sarcasm dominated the comments.

So why did a plea for help resulted in so many "cold-blooded" responses?

Netizen "Lankuzi" responded in a way that may explain the problems: "I feel that there are many questions in this post.  First of all, there is medical insurance.  A reporter should have medical insurance and she should be reimbursed for most of the expenses.  Why didn't she exercise that?  Next, your mother has done so many good things and the radio bosses must know that.  Why won't they help in this emergency?  Not even a contribution?  Finally, what about the father of Ah Zhen?  What kind of work does he do?  He is not even mentioned in the post.  Even if they are now divorced, how can he refuse to help now that she is seriously ill?"

The answers to the above questions cannot be found in Ah Zhen's post.

"But at least if she took pictures of the medical history, this would make it easier for us to believe."  Netizen "Lankuzi" who had been repeatedly doubtful told the reporter.

"Yantaishan" is a netizen named Cai who lives in Yantai city in Shandong province.  When this reporter contacted him, he had no hesitation in saying that his immediate reaction when he saw this post was to be skeptical.  "I hope that such cases receive attention, but I don't want to be deceived and I don't want other netizens to be deceived.  Therefore, I try to find the dubious aspects of this case and I stated them in the comment section."

"How can she make me believe her?  For example, she can take a photograph of the medical history record and let us see it.  Or else she has some other proof.  At the time, the webmaster made this request but the medical history was not provided."

According to "Yantaishan," some volunteers who were pleading for help in other cases at Tianya provided medical records through photographic evidence posted on the Internet.  This enhanced the credibility of the case and this is a viable approach.

But "Yantiashan" admitted that even as he wrote about his doubts, he did not personally called to check on the veracity of the case.  "The telephone number was provided by the poster herself.  If I called, she would have said that it was true.  Besides, this could be a trap in which the other party imposes a high telephone charge.  One has to be careful.  The Internet is complicated, and one has to maintain a certain level of alertness."

Zhu Xinmin helped Ah Zhen to disseminate the plea on the Internet.  He also responded to the netizens as well as reporters, and he is angry.

According to Zhu Xinmin and Xiong Qian, they did not know each other previously.  However, they belonged to the same QQ group.  When Zhu found out that Xiong was ill, he went to visit her in Liuzhou and helped Ah Zhen to distribute the news on Internet forums.

"The patient did not authorize me to publish detailed information about her condition."  Zhu Xinmin said that some people are not willing to donate money.  Even if the letter disclosed everything, they will still not donate anything.  They only want to abuse and insult people.

So why did this incident end up where people insulted each other to the point of beyond control?  Zhu Xinmin thinks that the forum master at Tianya was a fault for not guiding the discussion properly.  "He asked for the medical history to be posted.  By chance, the girl was sick and did not have the time to do that.  So he did other things and made many insinuations behind the back."

But some netizens believed that Zhu Xinmin had a bad attitude because his plea for donations sounded like as if people owed him money.  This managed to scare away a lot of potential donors.  Zhu Xinmin responded by yelling over the telephone to the reporter: "That's bullshit!  Why do I need to have a good attitude?  I am not asking for help for myself.  I am trying to ask for help on behalf of someone else.  I am trying to ask for help for someone that I don't even know.  Just because there were fraudsters on the Internet previously does not mean that I am that kind of person."

Zhu Xinmin only wanted to help Xiong Qian and so he felt misunderstood here.  He said, "At first, I did not write it this way.  But once they wrote those posts, I was angered.  I felt compelled to respond to their posts."

"But as potential donors, netizens ought to have the right to demand more detailed information?"  The reporter asked.  But Zhu Xinmin was still in an angry state of emotion, and he was unwilling to respond to the reporter's question.  He hung up the telephone in the middle of the conversation.

Ah Zhen is just as perplexed by the doubts and attacks in the Internet responses like Zhu Xinmin.

"With respect to a patient, one ought to respect her dignity and her rights.  Correct?  Publicizing her medical history is disrespecting the patient, and the doctor would not have permitted me to disclose the medical history," Ah Zhen explained to the reporter.

Can a family member take a photograph of the medical history of the patient?  According to Dr. Chen of the Liuzhou People's Hospital, they allow certain sections of the medical history to be photocopied after certain procedures are followed through.

"When you wrote the letter, why didn't you include some evidence that can prove this case?"

"Isn't that telephone number proof enough?  You call that telephone number and you will know.  You can look up my mother on the Internet."  Ah Zhen said.  "She is at the hospital.  If you really want to help, you can call the hospital and find out.  It does not take a lot of time or money."

Ah Zhen told this reporter that she has received donations from a dozen people or so after the plea went out.  Some of them gave more than 1,000 RMB while others gave dozens of RMB.  But the grand total was not enough for the surgery fee.  "When I issued that letter, my mother was in a dire state.  I wanted to save my mother and I have to worry about my school exams.  I was very worried.  I did not consider too many things, and I wanted to write the letter of plea as quickly as possible."

The Jiangsu province Nanchong city businessman Wang Chengzi has donated 3,000 RMB to Xiong Qian.  He told this reporter that Xiong Qian has a gynecological problem which was why her daughter Ah Zhen could not disclose the details.  Further, Xiong Qian also had family problems.  All of these are reasons why the patient did not want to explain her problems in detail.

"After the Tianya post appeared, I cannot say that I do not have any doubts.  I called the doctor in charge quickly to confirm.  Actually, it was easy to understand this case.  There is nothing fake about this case.  I have read the reports from the reporter Xiong Qian.  It was not easy for her.  I admire her.

"When I read some of the responses at Tianya, I was struck by how people do not have minimal conscience and trust nowadays.  Have we reached the point where we challenge everything regardless of the facts?'

As for Zhu Xinmin, Wang Chengzhi said that Zhu's wife was in an automobile accident and so he did not have time to cope with anything else.  Since these other things were taking place and some people want to speculate, Zhu became emotional because he treated the doubts as personal insults.

During the process of reporting on "Inducing young people to call hotline telephone numbers for profit" in 1999, the former Guangxi Liuzhou Radio reporter Xiong Qian was forced by Liuzhou City Liubei district Civil Affairs Bureau director Ma Xiaoming to "fsurrender the tape recorder under coercion."  The two clashed and Xiong Qiao was detained in the director's office for over 2 hours.  On February 2, 2000, Xiong Qian filed a lawsuit against the director to demand a public apology plus one cent in damages for mental anguish.  This is the so-called "one-cent lawsuit" that was widely publicized by the media.  Five months after the lawsuit was filed, Xiong Qian was asked to "leave her job" by the radio station.  Some netizens speculated that after Xiong Qian was laid off, her husband divorced her and that was one of the private issues that Xiong Qian does not want to discuss in public.

According to Xiong Qian, she had worked at the Liuzhou Radio Station for two years.  At first, she did not have medical insurance.  Afterwards, she went to work for a newspapers and she did not have medical insurance either.  During the past couple of years, she was not working for any regular unit and so she does not have any medical insurance.

"I did not tell my mother about this.  Someone else told her about it afterwards."  Ah Zhen said.

On the evening of May 7, Xiong Qian took the call from this reporter from her sick bed.  "This child was asking help over the Internet.  She has her own ideas.  I did not know about it at the time, or else I would not have let her do it.  I would not have let her posted the plea."

Xiong Qian felt that the result of the post had a bad influence and it seemed exaggerated.  "Some people feel that it was a hype.  But she is actually an innocent child and she did not think that it would raise a controversy.  She cannot understand how she could craw the abuses and criticisms."  This is how the mother evaluated her daughter.

As for Zhu Xinmin, Xiong Qian was grateful to him.  "When he learned about it, he flew over to Liuzhou to visit me.  At the time, I was very feeble and bed-ridden.  I could not even offer him a cup of tea.  When he went home, it was the May 1st Golden Week and he was only able to purchase standing-room train tickets.  That made me feel bad.  He is a very good person."

Xiong Qian also told this reporter that there are some details that are private matters that should not be disclosed.

"I don't seem to be able to communicate with him because he does not understand the Internet, much less getting assistance through the Internet."  The Tianya Media World forum master "Yuepaoyuekaixin" said about the netizen Zhu Xinmin.

According to this forum master, Tianya has been very careful about all posts that seek help ever since the 2005 "Chen Yi sells her body to save her mother incident."  They have a fixed set of procedures.  When a forum master sees such a post, he will try to contact the poster and ask for the relevant information in order to confirm the identities and facts, etc.

"This is done in order to reassure the potential donors.  They will only donate if they receive reassurance."  The forum master said that even though there is no explicit set of rules, they have standard practices.  Tianya is receiving pleas for help on a daily basis to the tune of several hundred per month.  They need to sort out the genuine cases from the fake ones.

The Tianya forum master said that he asked for the same information for the "Braid selling case" but he was surprised that he got a different reaction when he tried to manage it the same way as for previous cases.

The Tianya forum master had attempted to question Zhu Xinmin, who responded that he was not at Liuzhou, he could not provide the medical history and he could not provide photographs of the patient.  Furthermore, Ah Zhen was ill and receiving IV feed at the moment.

Since the Tianya forum master was unable to confirm the facts, he was worried that this was a fraud even as this might delay aid to a genuine patient in need.  Therefore, he added a "warning" section at the end of the post.

Addendum: This essay was not posted by the principal.  This came from a reporter (namely, Zhu Xinmin) who interviewed Ah Zhen.  When I contacted this reporter for the medical history, I did not get the answer that I would have wanted ... therefore, I ask netizens to treat this rationally.  Thanks!

In addition, the Tianya forum masters got on a QQ news group for help to investigate and inquire in order to seek the truth.  Yet, his actions was regarded by Zhu Xinmin as "maneuvers behind the scene."

Concerning that reaction, the Tianya forum master did not know whether to laugh or cry: "Since he has published such a post to get Internet assistance, he ought to try to understand certain basic Internet rules."