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Killing of innocents can't be justified

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily)

09:34, June 14, 2013

The debate sparked by the recent blaze in a bus in Xiamen, Fujian province, which killed 47 people and left 34 injured continues. Local police have identified Chen Shuizong, aged about 60 years, as the suspected arsonist. Chen is suspected of torching the bus to "give vent to his anger" for having been denied justice and forced to live a life in poverty. He was burnt to death too.

Thousands of netizens have joined the debate. While a majority blame Chen for the deaths of 47 innocent people, some have expressed sympathy with him.

But one thing is for certain: Chen deserves condemnation rather than sympathy.

Among those killed in the fire were a couple, both doctorates from Xiamen University. They have left behind their three-month-old son. The 31-year-old husband, Lin Diwang, was born in a poor family at a village in Quanzhou, Fujian, and struggled to excel in studies and earn a PhD from Xiamen University. Therefore, poverty cannot be used as an excuse for arson by anybody.

Also among the victims were eight students who had appeared for the national college entrance examination on the first day. And seven other college entrance examinees were deprived of the chance to take all the exams after being seriously injured in the fire. Could Chen justify his action that not only killed 47 people, but also deprived the teenagers the opportunity to build a better future?

The trauma that the injured passengers have suffered can leave them scarred for life. Moreover, the fire has also shattered the lives of the families of the dead and injured, and left them staring into an uncertain future.

Several messages widely believed to be posted on weibo by Chen before the fire show how officials mistreated him when he tried to correct an error in his date of birth that would have fetched him a larger amount as pension which was vital for his family. Many netizens have criticized the local government for "causing" the tragedy and blamed Chinese society for the state that Chen reportedly found himself in. But it's improper to make premature judgments before such messages are verified.

Even in Western countries, which some netizens extol as being the epitome of justice and equality, some individuals go berserk at times, triggering blasts or gunning down innocent people. Besides, Western countries are not free of terrorist attacks, the latest of which is the Boston bombings. People always criticize and condemn such attacks, but seldom do they blame such crimes on the failure of Western society.

Although terrorist attacks and shootings in the West are different from the arson attack in Xiamen, they have certain things in common. For one, the perpetrators, be they Westerners or Chinese, cannot fit into wider society.

Some netizens' claim that Chinese society as a whole is a failure doesn't hold water, but our society does need to learn a lesson from the tragedy. The fire has exposed there are loopholes in the safety system of buses, which were designed to help passengers escape but failed to work during a real emergency.

In fact, in 2009, when another man set fire to a bus in Chengdu, Sichuan province, killing 27 people, there was a nationwide campaign to improve bus safety. But the campaign died down with the passage of time.

So this time, we should not allow the call to improve bus safety measures to subside until proper measures are taken to that effect. There is no reason why more innocent people should lose their lives to the maniacal act of some disgruntled social aliens.

China has achieved many an economic miracle, but the social gap in the country continues to widen. It's high time the authorities created opportunities for the underprivileged to improve their lives and provided them with free counseling to prevent them from venting their anger on innocent people. It's also important for people to lend a helping hand to those in need, so that they don't feel alienated.

More than one survey have found that many criminals feel "hopeless" and "neglected" before entering the world of crime.

And there is reason to believe that they could have been different if they had had the opportunities and received proper guidance to improve their lives.

We ordinary people should also make our own contributions. A sentence is widely quoted in the media after the bus fire: "We are all on the same bus." The meaning is clear: We need to take care of each other and help people in need to lead a better life.

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