Youku video for those in China after the jump. UPDATE, 6/28: Thanks to China Daily, we now know the man is Martin Mellish, 61, an American high school teacher in Chengdu. See after jump for more.
Tuesday in Chengdu. At first, we have no idea what’s happening in the above video. Why is a foreigner pushing cars backwards? Is he angry? Why is he darting around with crazy hands, seemingly directing traffic? Why are so many people just watching him? We’re momentarily reminded of the Chengdu laowai who spit on a Chinese person last month.
But then we see it: our man here is actually clearing the way for an ambulance that’s pinned down. According to news reports, the foreigner used non-standard Chinese — and a fair amount of body language, obviously — to tell other drivers to stop driving forward and let the ambulance pass first.
Journalist and netizen reactions have been complimentary, with remarks such as, “Look at his respect for life.” Negativity has been reserved for the other bystanders. One commenter, on Sina, wrote, “Look at his inner quality (suzhi), then look at Chinese people’s.” Another wrote, “Look at the roadside’s Chinese people, still squeezing forward!” More than a few netizens have said that the Chinese should learn from this man (who remains unidentified).
UPDATE, 6/28, 3:43 pm: Reports China Daily on June 25:
Martin Mellish, 61, unexpectedly became a celebrity recently.
Walking in the street, dining in a restaurant or visiting a scenic spot, he would find himself being recognized by strangers who would greet him with a friendly “hello.”
“They would say, ‘You are the laowai (foreigner) who helped an ambulance,’” said Martin, a US citizen teaching mathematics at a high school attached to Sichuan University in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. Cycling on his way to Chengdu No 12 High School, where he was scheduled to give a free English lecture on June 12, Martin happened to see an ambulance with its siren on trapped in a crowd of cars under an overpass near downtown Chengdu’s Jiangxi Street.