Summary from Baidu Baike:
“Holding a Body for Ransom” [shown above] is a photograph by “Huashangbao” photographer Zhang Yi. The subject of the photograph is from 2009 October 24th when Hubei Jingzhou university students He Dongxu, Fang Zhao, and Chen Jishi heroically gave their lives to save drowning children, yet the salvage company shockingly demanded exorbitant sums of money when salvaging the bodies. Facing students begging on their knees, not only were the salvagers unmoved, they also held the bodies for ransom, collecting a total of 36,000 yuan as a fee for salvaging the corpses. In 2010, “Holding a Body for Ransom” won the highest honor for Chinese news photos — the “Golden Lens” award. However, the photo’s award incited a lot of questions. August 23rd morning, the “Golden Lens” jury released the conclusion of their investigation of the questions surrounding the truth of the “Holding a Body for Ransom” news photograph, believing that the news in “Holding a Body for Ransom” was true, and that there were nothing false/misleading.
For more background information about the original incident, please see our previous reports:
- Hubei University Students Drown While Saving Children
- Nearby Fishing Boat Refused To Save Drowning Students
The recent “controversy” is… some people (members of the media and local authorities including Yangtze University Propaganda/Publicity Director Li Yuquan), have accused the photograph, the title of the photograph, the photographer, and many media reports of the photograph of misleading the public. After the photo won the Golden Lens award, they demanded that the judging committee investigate.Some of their main arguments:
- The media reported that the photograph shows the fishermen (shown int he picture) negotiating how much the people will pay for them to bring the body to the shore, so they were “holding the body for ransom”. Other photographs show that the boat was working with another boat and the old man was only signaling to the shore. So the photograph should only be titled “Bringing Bodies Back to Shore”.
- The fishermen (shown in the picture) only make a few hundred RMB for finding and recovering the body. If there was a price negotiation, it was not with the fishermen and the fishermen should not be blamed for it.
- The misleading photograph has caused people to hate, harass, and physically attack the fishermen, in addition to being disappointed with society.
Please see EastSouthWestNorth for a collection of translated Chinese articles and discussion forum posts for more details about why some people think the photograph is misleading and the photographer’s response.
In summary, the original photographer, Zhang Yi, defended his photograph and the photograph’s title “Holding a Body for Ransom”. He provided all of his photographs from that time. The old fisherman/salvager was not negotiating but he was indeed “holding a body for ransom” on behalf of his boss, who in another photograph is shown counting the money he demanded for recovering the body. Zhang Yi also proved that his photograph did not incite people to attack the fishermen, because his famous photograph was only published nearly a week after the fishermen were attacked on the day of the students’ memorial.
The Golden Lens investigation committee concluded that the photograph was not misleading and the title was appropriate. Below, we have translated some Chinese netizen reactions to this “controversy”:
Shocking! “Holding a Body for Ransom” complete set of photographs, 16 pictures, released
2009 October 24, Changjiang [Yangtze] University students Chen Jishi, He Dongxu, Fang Zhao, and 15 other schoolmates were at the Changjiang Jingzhou Baota Bay having a barbecue. As a result of saving two drowning children, Chen Jishi, Fang Zhao, and He Dongxu were unfortunately engulfed in the river’s waters, giving up their young lives.
Yet the salvage company shockingly demanded exorbitant sums of money when salvaging the bodies. Facing students begging on their knees, not only were the salvagers unmoved, they also held the bodies for ransom, collecting a total of 36,000 yuan as a fee for salvaging the corpses.
This incident gained widespread attention through the media, with public opinion unanimously condemning the act of holding a body for ransom as breaking the lowest limits of social morality, bringing shame to everyone in the country.
Now the complete “Holding a Body for Ransom” set of photographs have been completely released, and though it has already been nearly a year since the incident, I am still shaken after looking through them.
Comments from Mop:
So just exactly who’s story is the truth???
This matter happened a very long time ago, though [I] must still condemn those people who held the bodies for ransom~~~
Chinese people’s traditional virtues have all been lost in the hands of these people!
I think they all had the possibility of being rescued/resuscitated.
What they [ the fishermen/salvagers] did was murder!!!
Seeing how old that old man is, I can’t even bring myself to curse him.
These days, truth and lies are difficult to separate.
Dusk on the Yangtze [Changjiang] is this beautiful, yet those people [the salvagers] are this ugly…
I just want to say, I really admire their body recovering abilities! Here, our river is narrower than their’s, but normally when a person drowns, their bodies are almost never recovered, and only when their bodies float to the surface several days later can they be recovered. So, I really don’t dare to imagine just how they were able to “salvage/recover” the body in such a short period of time.
There is only money in the eyes of Chinese people.
The main subject in the “Holding a Body for Ransom” photograph agrees to an interview, denies negotiating prices during the recovery of the bodies
Comments from iFeng:
I 100% trust that this photo [“Holding a Body for Ransom”] is real! This is the revolting behavior of Chinese people!
I’m afraid it is really hard to deny, the heart of the salvage company boss is really that black: Only money in his head, no morals, and to earn money, sometimes they’re anxious for someone to die!
This matter actually isn’t complicated, the salvager works for his boss, and didn’t know whether or not the drowned person was a hero. If the boss says to salvage, he salvages. If the boss says stop, he stops.
Could there have been no one else [to salvage the bodies] at that time? Could everyone that was there have all died? Had I been at the scene, I definitely swear I wouldn’t give fucking care whose interests were involved!
Those hooks are for fishing fish, not for fishing human bodies. They only need to find the location of the body, and then tie it with a rope. In other words, there’s no need for hooks, so obviously that doesn’t make sense. But finding such an irrelevant excuse only makes you even more detestable.
[If you guys] dig any further, then bribery and corruption will appear. Can’t you guys be a bit more harmonious?
A bunch of intellectuals piling on someone, bullying the old man for not being intelligent, not knowing how to argue! There is always a bunch of “intellectuals” looking to poke holes!!!
What do you think? Is the title of the photograph misleading? Have the fishermen been treated unfairly because of the photograph?