Summer brings challenges to whole society
Published: Aug 08, 2013 06:58 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Shanghai is experiencing a rough start to August with the judges' prostitution scandal and the unprecedented heat wave rocking the city.

Four court officials in Shanghai were captured on video footage posted online on August 1 that appears to show them soliciting prostitutes at a hotel in Pudong New Area in June.

The scandal tars the image of judges not only in Shanghai but across the whole nation, and has scarred judicial credibility. Han Zheng, the secretary of the Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China, said on Wednesday that black sheep should be eliminated and urged that people in the judicial department learn lessons from the case and discipline themselves.

If there is something good from this bad story, it is that Shanghai reacted quickly in handling the crisis and has punished the officials.

The incident also serves as a warning for civil servants at all levels across the country. With the help of social media, the grassroots monitoring network now plays an important and effective role in helping to curb corruption and other indecent behavior among Party leaders and government officials.

I am not in Shanghai this week and whenever new friends find out that I'm from Shanghai, they commiserate about this year's soaring temperatures. For the first time in my life, I have received so much sympathy for being a Shanghainese, quite the contrary to the usual treatment of being envied. Hospitals around the city are at full capacity because of the large number of patients affected by the record high temperatures. At least 11 people have died from heatstroke this summer.

Along with the scorching temperatures, summer has brought another set of tragedies.

Most students in China enjoy a two-month summer holiday from school. According to figures released by education authorities, fatal accidents often peak during the summer break with unsupervised children drowning, falling from buildings, being killed in traffic accidents and so on.

In both the cities and the countryside, it's unrealistic for working parents to accompany their child for the entire summer vacation. If possible, they are left in the care of grandparents. Sometimes, however, children are left home alone and parents just hope that they can take care of themselves. A string of recent tragedies has proved that this doesn't work.

We can only imagine the pain and suffering of parents and family members, especially since most families have only one child.

We have heard extreme cases of children being restrained by iron chains so that they can't go beyond their elderly grandparents' sight. But if a fire breaks out, the children can't escape.

After each incident, we hope that this is the last tragedy we'll hear about, but another follows soon after. We have to conclude that a better childcare system is needed to guarantee the safety of school children while their parents are at work.

The increase in student deaths during the holiday is a social problem that needs efforts from all sectors to help prevent accidents, and at the same time, create more chances for children to enjoy their break.

The empty campuses can play a role. Playgrounds, libraries and even classrooms are venues for students to play and be supervised together.

We can't require teachers to work overtime to take care of unattended children. Volunteers are needed to help out. They should maintain order among children, and at the same time, protect the facilities and properties on campus.

Legal files are needed in case something unexpected happens, so that people can be held accountable. However, it should be systematic instead of just case by case. We never want to see Good Samaritans suffer for their warmheartedness or good intentions. If the system discourages Samaritans, social stability and harmony will not be achieved.

Most residents remember volunteers all over the city during the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai when the city united to stage a wonderful and unforgettable Expo. Volunteering is a long-term commitment and not just a one-off event.

We can't demand that others serve as volunteers and just be the party that benefits from their sacrifice. Everybody should embrace the concept of being a volunteer and pitch in to give others something you have, whether it's time, a skill or expertise.

For example, I'm very willing to play a role over the summer holiday and be a volunteer. As a professional career woman, I can teach students about journalism and discuss current affairs with them. As a mother, I can also share my thoughts on parent-child relations. So long as you are willing to give your time, it won't be hard for you to "sell" your talents.

Three years ago, Shanghai presented a "Better City, Better Life" Expo before the world. There were problems, but it was still a successful event.

Nobody would say that the issue of unattended children presents a more complicated challenge for society than major events like the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games or the 2010 Shanghai Expo. These challenges are a test of the determination of all parties involved.

These fatal accidents are not individual cases just affecting a small number of families. Providing safe childcare to working parents over the summer is a general issue related to the whole society. Only when the whole society is involved can the problem be really solved.

The author is the managing editor of Global Times Metro Shanghai.