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Posted by Joel Martinsen on Saturday, September 16, 2006 at 1:18 PM
Do we need a 'Learn from Lei Feng' license?
Cosmetology students offering free haircuts in a public park in Jiaozuo, Henan Province, were chased off the "Young Volunteers Plaza" by park management who suspected that they were merely using the park as a free practice ground. Which, if you are familiar with beauty training schools, is probably not a bad guess - the school claims that it has provided 13,000 free haircuts to city residents since March.
Each side's spin:
· Jiaozuo City Oriental Technical Institute president: "There's a sign set up at the entrance reading 'Young Volunteers Plaza', proving that this place is authorized by the government. The students weren't taking any money for their volunteer hair cutting, so why didn't they let the students learn from Lei Feng and donate their generosity?"
· Park administrater Lu Ren: "Although the students were voluntarily cutting hair and not taking any money from the citizens, the school had taken money from the students. Under the banner of volunteerism, the school was in fact turning the People's Park into a training ground, and the park has no obligation to assist them."
· Jiaozuo Forestry Department: "You can only come here to learn from Lei Feng when the government organizes you to do so. If they don't organize you to learn from Lei Feng then you can't come. Learning from Lei Feng is not something you can do anytime you wish."
It's that last bit that has people more than a little upset. Quite a few papers printed reactions in their opinion sections to the original Orient Today article, arguing that whatever the motives of the technical school in sending its students to cut hair in the park, the administration completely misunderstood the Lei Feng spirit. Here's a typical attitude, from a piece titled "Learning from Lei Feng shouldn't have conditions or limits" by Peng Beiyi in the Dazhong Daily:
Besides, if actual Lei Feng work is made off-limits, Chinese youth will now more than ever be in need of a virtual venue for patriotic volunteerism. Unfortunately, the online Lei Feng game we've been hearing about for over a year is still in development, leaving no outlet for young people who want to make a difference.
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Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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