Fan Meizhong: Why I Challenged the Chinese Public on Ethics

Fan Meizhong, a high school teacher in Sichuan Province, has become a household name in China after he posted an online article saying that he had fled a classroom before his students during the recent devastating earthquake.

Fan said that he was not ashamed by his behavior. His remarks shocked and enraged many in China, who are used to hearing heroic stories about earthquake relief. They fiercely criticized Fan as a selfish person and demanded that he be deprived of his teaching certificate. As a result Fan was fired by his employer earlier this week.

Fan wrote a second essay defending his actions and explaining his intention of posting the controversial sentences. He said that he wrote the article partly to console a friend, who felt bad about himself after he fled his office without helping his colleague during the quake.

“You are not the only person that acted that way, ” I wanted to tell him through this article. “Actually you did nothing wrong. ”

I wrote the article also out of my repulsion by the recent cases of moral blackmail. Several people, such as entrepreneur Wang Shi and sports star Yao Ming, were fiercely attacked by commentators and the public for not donating enough money for earthquake relief. I felt bad about the attacks. I believe that people should make donations voluntarily. They should not be forced to do it.

Another reason for the article is my aversion to hypocrisy. I acknowledge that many people grieved sincerely for the earthquake victims. However, I think there were also lots of artificial tears. I believe that there were some heroic deeds at the moment when the quake struck, but I felt that the media and public opinion had propagandized them. They blocked out all the other behavior. They beat the drum for sacrifice and high moral standards, and morally blackmail those who act differently. I think it is necessary to counteract this martyr tendency.

I was also repulsed by those media workers and many others who are used to telling lies.

People often laughed at my frankness. When my classmates praised me for my work at a Youth League meeting in high school, I said frankly that I had actually done nothing. “I had been busy preparing for college exams. I think everybody was too busy with the exams to do anything,” I said. They all had awkward expressions at my remarks. “Fan Meizhong is weird. He is too frank,” they said of me after the meeting. Perhaps they also said, “He is really stupid!”

Fan was a graduate of China’s elite Peking University. He had been fired previously by several other Chinese schools for his maverick behavior.

Thousands of people have commented on Fan’s remarks on Chinese Internet forums. A majority of them denounced Fan, while the others defended his frankness. A columnist nicknamed him Fan Paopao (Running Fan). A pop singer has composed a song ridiculing him, which is widely disseminated on the Internet and downloaded by Chinese cell phone users as their ringtones:

The lyrics of the song are translated as follows:

There is a person, whose name is strange. He pretends to love freedom and liberty. But he doesn’t love even his mom and daddy. When he runs, he is faster than a hare. He loves to sit and talk about high morals. But he could forget a teacher’s basic ethics. One day when he was teaching in class, an earthquake suddenly hit. He rushed out of the classroom and ran like crazy. Running Fan, he runs and runs…

Fan also appeared in an talk show on Hong Kong based Phoenix TV, his debate with another critic Guo Sonlin was widely spread on Chinese Internet.