In early March each year, Chinese citizens may well get help from warmhearted people as various do-good-deeds activities are launched at this time in memory of a Communist Party selfless model person - Lei Feng.
"No matter how poor I myself am, I only feel relieved when I try every means to return the property left in my taxi," said Yang Guoping, a driver of a Lei Feng Taxi Squad in Harbin, capital of the northeast Heilongjiang Province.
He managed to find the owner of a suitcase with a passport, visa and documents in it left in his taxi on Tuesday. The squad, established in 1999, has 300 Lei Feng-labelled taxis and more than 7,000 volunteers.
What prompts the driver to do good deeds is the example of Lei, a Chinese People's Liberation Army solider who was immortalized by late Chairman Mao Zedong as a selfless and model person serving the people heart and soul.
Lei, a native of central Hunan Province, joined the PLA at 20 and spent all his spare time and money helping the needy. He died on August 15, 1962 at 22 after being hit on the head by a wooden pole that was accidentally knocked over by a fellow soldier.
Mao called on the nation to learn from him by writing a motto "To Learn From Comrade Lei Feng" and the country has set March 5 as "Lei Feng Day" since 1963.
After 45 years, Lei's spirit still has influence.
Chen Dongmei, now a middle school teacher in Harbin, set up a special team to help a handicapped person Zhang Lianrui when she was a student more than 20 years ago.
The deed was continued by Zhang's fellow students when she graduated and went to college. She returned to her alma mater and works as a teacher after college. Her students, led by Chen, continue to help Zhang.
"To help him has become a habit and obligation in the past 20 years," the teacher says.
Like Zhang, numerous citizens, old and young, male and female, also carry forward the do-good-deeds practice in their daily life.
Li Kexiao, a 78-year-old man in the eastern Zhejiang Province, has collected more than 5,000 pieces of memorial items for Lei since 1963. He managed to establish a 200-square-meter Lei's memorial museum in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, in late November.
"I have been organizing exhibitions or giving lectures about Lei in schools for years," said the elder, explaining how the museum was established. "Now, I am old and do not have as much strength as before. So I want to find a fixed place to exhibit the items to let Lei's spirit pass on."
After his idea was reported by local media, an agricultural products trade company of Hangzhou, decided to help and finally the museum was set up.
"What Lei did was all small things, but they showed his generosity and broad-mindedness and a harmonious inter-personal relationship," Li says.
"Currently, the harmonious society that we have been striving for has something of the same spirit as Lei. And so do the socialist maxims of honor and disgrace and a resource-conserving society that our country is advocating."
Lei's spirit is continuing, but its promotion also faces challenges in contemporary Chinese society. Doing good deeds sometimes brings trouble.
On Feb. 28, a driver in Wenzhou City in Zhejiang asked a tricycle to take an old granny to hospital after she fell near his car, out of good will. But later the elder's family insisted she was hit by his car. The driver's car was taken temporarily by traffic police.
In another widely reported case, a youth named Peng Yu in Nanjing, capital of eastern Jiangsu Province, was ordered by a court to pay compensation of more than 40,000 yuan (5,500 U.S. dollars) to an old woman he had helped. Peng, held up the granny who fell at a bus station in November 2006 and sent her to hospital.
After knowing they needed tens of thousands of yuan for treatment, the granny and her family insisted the young man hit her and should pay the fee. They filed a lawsuit after their request for money was refused.
"If it is like this, whoever will dare to do good deeds from now on?" Peng's lawyer roared after the verdict.
Lack of credibility in today's society has made some people decline to help those in need, according to experts.
Today's children also tend to forget the model person as they mainly depend on textbooks to know him.
A recent report in a local newspaper in Henan Province said nearly half of the 100 interviewed pupils in two primary schools in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, said they did not know Lei Feng at all. But they were much excited when talking about famous Hong Kong stars such as Andy Lau.
"Learning from Lei Feng is in nature a kind of moral deed, and we should never give up carrying forward virtues such as helping others and being friendly to others, " said Lu Hanlong, head of the social development research institute under the Shanghai Municipal Academy of Social Sciences.
"One should be aware that helping others is actually helping oneself and is a reflection of one's self-worth," Lu said/
(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2008)