The most “famous” bridge in China

Haizhu Bridge is a regular iron bridge across the Pearl River in Guangzhou, China. There is nothing special about this bridge itself, until 2009, it is well know as “the most famous bridge” in China. In 2009, there were more than 40 jumped off the bridge incidents in a month on Haizhu Bridge, which became the focus of public outcry. Most of these jumpers threatened to suicide because of financial troubles (such as unpaid wages), severe medical conditions, and work issues.
The suicidal attempts caused chaos to residence and multiple complaints were filed to the Guangzhou municipal bureau of public security. The bridge was turned into a political topic, as it provides a platform and space who threatens public security and disrupts social order. The most famous incident was reported by BBC News: an angry passerby pushes a would-be suicide jumper off the bridge for holding up traffic. If you are interested: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8064867.stm

Since multiple news coverages on the suicidal jumps (including attempts), the violations of public interests made the government officials reconsider the structure and design of the bridge. Later in2009, the government hired additional guards, set up special fences and put up warning signs. However, none of these solution worked to prevent jumpers to climb up the bridge. As a result, the government decided to smear slippery materials on all of the climbable surfaces of the 1,000 foot long iron bridge. According to Winner, the artifact (Haizhu Bridge) is being redesigned to accommodate the minority (prevent suicidal jumps).

On of the bridge guard mentioned in the BBC interview, that the slippery paint prevents suicidal jumpers to climb up the bridge, meanwhile it makes hard for the bridge maintenance to finish regular checkups. He also said that each time someone threatens to commit suicide to get media attention or sympathy over personal problems, the police end up with several hours of tailback as and traffic jams. Although, the bridge prevents people from climbing up with the special paint, it is a temporary solution to solve suicidal attempts. The redesign of the bridge will continue to gain public attention as the government holds the power to organize and reorganize social order. The network of the attention seekers may turn away from jumping the Haizhu Bridge, but they will continue to search other channels to obtain the public attention. The network does not disappear, instead, it may switch directions to connect with other networks.

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2 Comments

  1. Such a temporary solution to such a complex and serious problem! Adding
    ‘slippery paint” just seems to disregard the significance of this problem and convey a sense of inconvenience on the entire issue. I am interested to know whether the Government of China or other community leaders have done anything to address the roots of these problems? As you stated, networks will find other channels, thus the importance of properly addressing where the issue is steaming from is imperative!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, the solution might do the bandage effect but it is not sustainable for a long time. I think the chinese government tries to help these people, however, the problem is that they are not just personal issues, but more about the social structures and government policies. For example, one of the suicidal attempt wanted to jump because he was in medical debt for more than 200,000 yuan (about 40,000 CAD). He could not afford to pay the hospital and his treatment was not covered under any insurance. The government policy is not there to support people in need. Therefore, i think it is hard to solve root issues in each case, but there is hope that the slippery paint in no longer needed to prevent suicidal jumpers.

      Like

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