Why is everything in this country about limitless greed nowadays? This depressing article is from the South China Morning Post.
Authorities in Hubei province have punished a manager of a salvage company over an accident in which three college students drowned rescuing children from the Yangtze River two weeks ago but said they have found no significant wrongdoing.
The Jingzhou city government said on Saturday that the manager was being put under police detention for 15 days and fined 1,000 yuan (HK$1,135) for extorting cigarettes and bottled water from the students’ university.
But it denied a widely circulated report alleging the salvage company demanded 12,000 yuan to recover each body.
The incident on October 24 has triggered public outrage and became a nationwide talking point.
Media reports and internet users who claimed to have witnessed the incident said that two fishing boats were close to the students when they threw themselves into the water to rescue the drowning children in the river.
Witnesses claimed the two boats were from a salvage company.
The reports had angered the public, with many people demanding the authorities punish the company.
But Jingzhou government said that its preliminary investigation found the two salvage boats that arrived at the scene after the students had drowned.
They were not the same as the two fishing vessels which were at the scene earlier. And the two boats did try to help the students.
The three victims, students at Yangtze University in Jingzhou, drowned while trying to save the lives of two drowning teenagers in the river.
About 10 college students on the riverbank formed a “human chain” by holding hands and pushed the youngsters to safety, according to witnesses.
All the students in the chain except the three victims managed to get to shore.
Even as the university and local government paid tribute to the three students for their heroic behaviour, some disturbing details emerged.
Witnesses said two fishing boats were nearby during the rescue efforts, but those boat managers had refused to help.
Two similar-looking salvage boats arrived later and agreed to help recover the bodies for the price they named.
A picture of salvage boat manager Chen Bo counting the cash before ordering his men to recover bodies disgusted internet users.
The Jingzhou government launched its investigation in an attempt to stop any further action by the public. It said the two fishing vessels, which were different from the salvage boats, had helped in the rescue efforts.
The government, noting the public outrage, said Chen telling university teachers and students that the recovery operation would not begin until they brought 300 yuan worth of cigarettes and water amounted to blackmail.
The response has done little to silence the media and online debate, as the official explanation only raised more questions.
Established last year, the Baling Salvage Company failed to renew its registration this year, which by regulation caused it to lose the right to operate.
Media investigations into the salvage company revealed that its total reported income of 15,500 yuan last year and profit of 965 yuan were also too low compared with their “12,000 yuan per body” demands.
Central China Television also challenged the city government’s ability to provide river safety services, as even after police and firefighters arrived on the scene, they still had to use the salvage company to recover the bodies.