An American student has shot to Internet fame in China after buying french fries for a homeless woman in Nanjing.
Photos of her eating with the student -- a Southern California native named Jason Loose, who is now known as "American French Fry Brother" by many Chinese Internet users -- have been forwarded hundreds of thousands of times on Sina Weibo, China's popular microblogging site.
The images have set off a new round of soul-searching in China since they were posted Saturday. Many Chinese citizens think their country's blind pursuit of wealth has created a moral vacuum, causing feelings of indifference toward the suffering of strangers.
Loose, who has studied at Nanjing University for nine months, was caught off guard by his popularity.
"I just gave some food that isn't really even healthy to an old woman and talked with her for a few minutes," he said of the McDonald's fries when reached by phone Wednesday. "I don't see much that's newsworthy about that."
"There wasn't much money in her collection bowl, and it was really hot out," Loose recalled. "I walked past her and thought that maybe she could use some food and some company."
The two talked about her poor health, her home in rural Anhui province and the weather. She said she was thirsty, he recalled, so he poured her some water. He left after about 10 minutes.
"I asked what's her favorite food to eat," he said. "Her answer was 'not french fries.' "
Loose did not find out until the next day that an onlooker had photographed the encounter and posted the images online. He opened his own Weibo account soon afterward and already has more than 9,000 followers.
Comments on Weibo reflect admiration for Loose's charity and question why the Chinese don't often perform similar acts.
"Truly wish this was a fellow countryman," wrote one user. "Chinese people, let's all learn from this," wrote another.
The foreign Good Samaritan has emerged as a hot topic on China's social media websites since last fall, when CCTV footage of pedestrians ignoring an injured 2-year-old girl in Guangdong province sparked widespread debate over the country's moral conscience.
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