With their expensive Mercedes-Benz sports vehicles, the wealthy members of the Chongqing car club are normally accustomed to tooling around town in their luxury cars and taking weekend leisure trips.
But this week they piled into their SUVs, filled up their vehicles with boxes of medicine and food, and drove 500 kilometres to the scene of the Sichuan earthquake. Nearly 100 club members raced to the disaster zone, in convoys of 20 cars or more, to bring relief supplies to homeless survivors.
“We didn't even think about it,” one of the club members said. “We definitely have a duty to help our brothers and sisters.”
In a country with no tradition of private philanthropy or community activism, the Sichuan earthquake has given birth to a remarkable development: a grassroots volunteer movement on a massive scale. Some analysts say it could be a historic moment, the first signs of the emergence of broad-based civil society in a country where emperors and autocrats have ruled for centuries.
The volunteers have come from all over China. In the city of Leshan, more than 400 kilometres from the earthquake, a former soldier named Shao Zhi saw the disaster coverage on television.
“I can't just sit here,” he told his family. “People are still alive, and I want to help them.” More...
See also: China quake: the despair and the agony. (Images)
And this: China quake: "Entire generation wiped out..."