A teenage boy who missed the gaokao college entrance examination after he risked his life to save bus passengers has been granted a rare second chance, and more than ten mainland universities, including the prestigious Tsinghua University, have expressed their willingness to admit him to their schools.
According to local media reports, on May 31, 17-year-old Liu Yanbing was on a bus in the city of Yichun, Jiangxi Province when a knife-wielding man started to attack passengers.
The man stabbed Liu’s classmate Yi Zhengyong in the back, and then gashed Liu’s head and shoulder before Liu snatched the knife and stopped the attacker from hurting others.
The assailant fled the bus, but was later arrested by police on June 2.
The story of the attack became well-known a week ago, on June 7 - the first day of the gaokao, or national college entrance examination. Badly injured, both Liu and Yi were hospitalised and missed the exam.
Lying on a hospital bed with his head wrapped in gauze while his fellow classmates racked their brains at the exams, Liu soon found himself under the glare of the media spotlight, and local authorities awarded both him and Yi the honorary title of “Good Samaritan”.
Liu, the "knife snatching boy", even appeared on the June 8 front page of People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.
“[Although Liu] cannot attend the national college entrance exams, in fact he has already handed in an alternative answer sheet,” the article read, implying that Liu did the right thing by stepping out to save the lives of others.
The Education Department of Jiangxi Province granted Liu and Yi the chance to attend an unprecedented specially arranged make-up exam upon recovery, Xinhua reported.
While the two are still expected to pass the exam, a dozen universities, including Tsinghua University, have voiced their willingness to help the boys in the admission process "within the boundaries of established policies and rules [in an effort] to make their dreams of becoming college students come true".
While it is unclear which university the boys will eventually attend, The Emergency Promotion Centre for the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on June 11 that Liu had been offered the chance to go abroad to the United States for pilot training in order to one day serve as a member in China's first helicopter rescue team - provided that he passes his make-up test and a physical exam first. Liu has long wanted to be a pilot, state broadcaster Chinese Central Television (CCTV) reported.
Liu's heroism comes at a time when public discontent has been rising over what many see as a lack of good samaritans in mainland China.
On May 28, the brutal murder of a woman by six perpetrators at a McDonald’s in Shandong Province raised a national outcry after not a single bystander stepped up to stop the atrocity.
Another infamous incident occurred October 2011, when a two-year-old toddler in Guangdong Province was crushed by two cars successively. 18 people passed by without stopping for the critically injured girl, leaving her lying in a pool of blood for ten minutes until a 58-year-old trash collecting woman offered to help her.
Many members of China's online microblogging community have voiced their support for Liu, agreeing that the boy deserves a free pass to university as a reward for his bravery and selflessness.
On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, more than 80 per cent of 50 thousand voters said that they supported Tsinghua University's decision to admit Liu directly.
In the past, there have been precedents where students of good moral character have been directly admitted to top universities without taking the college entrance exams. For instance, both Peking University and Tsinghua University granted automatic admission to courageous students who saved others during the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
However, others argue that direct admission breaks school rules and breeds unfairness, potentially setting a bad example for those who want to exploit an advantage.
“If everyone can be admitted to prestigious universities for their brave conduct before the exams, what sort of climate will it bring to society? If [Liu] has the [academic] ability, it is fine. But if not, he shouldn’t be admitted,” Weibo user “Xingyelvxing” commented.
Another user “hanwater1981” disagreed: “Academic performance is only one of many aspects. Moral character is also very important. The intelligence difference among people is not so prominent. Even if [Liu] did not excel academically in his high school, it won’t be a problem if he works hard at Tsinghua University.”