China: Senior sues would-be Samaritan

At around 9:00 am on November 20, 2006 in the eastern city of Nanjing, a Ms. Xu, now 65, was knocked down while trying to board a bus. Peng Yu, a 26-year-old man, as he got off at the station, saw Ms. Xu lying on the ground with her left collarbone fractured.

This much is known; a lack of witness leaves what happened next embroiled in controversy. According to Peng, he helped elderly Ms. Xu up and took her to the hospital. Soon after, Ms. Xu's family arrived. Peng's good deed worthy of praise? Not this time. According to Peng, however, when Xu heard that treatment would figure into the tens of thousands, Ms. Xu immediately blurted out at him: ‘it was YOU who knocked me down!’

According to the Xus, as it was Peng Yu who knocked her down and then took her to the hospital for treatment, it is he who must take responsibility. So then Ms. Xu sued the young man for 136,419.30 yuan, including medical expenses and compensation for emotional suffering.

On September 7, at the 4th session of the case, the district court finally released its verdict: Peng Yu, partially liable for the accident, would pay 45, 876.36 yuan (US$6,076) to Ms Xu.

The court's sentence was based on the following analysis:

As the first passenger off the bus, it was most likely Peng who slammed into Ms. Xu. And according to “common sense”, if Peng had not been the one who collided with Ms. Xu, it is reasonable to assume that instead of sending the old woman to hospital, even giving her 200 yuan, he would have caught the real troublemaker. As Peng's actions run contrary to common sense, it was ruled that Peng Yu held responsibility for Ms. Xu's injury.

Emphasis: the court based its judgment entirely on “common sense”. In the absence of sustainable facts or any witnesses, a fire was immediately lit on the blogsphere, with many netizens and bloggers protesting the ruling, most of them inclined to see Peng Yu as innocent, and lamenting what impact this immensely-discussed incident would have for society when future roadside or traffic injuries occur. Would you risk lending a hand?

On his Sina blog, Shi Hanbing (时寒冰) growled for the loss of justice:


This is an absolute betrayal of the law! It outrages and desecrates the law! We demand judges give sentences according to fact, and based on the law; yet this verdict was built entirely upon guesswork and deduction. You call this a judgment? This is nothing other than the perverse sort of imagination one sees in fiction.

The writer went on examining its negative effect on public morality:


An old woman stumbled, and someone helped her. But the judge was able to see from this that “his behavior was obviously contrary to common sense”. I doubt how dark our society is in the judge's mind, how malicious we are!
Let me tell you, our goodness gets nothing less than buried by judgments as stupid and weak as this one!

With as big as the controversy has gotten, the fear now is that if you're ever, say, hit by a bus, is anyone going to help pull you off the street? The Bullog bloggers responded by creating a campaign, calling on netizens to ‘Give Integrity One More Chance

An anonymous netizen in Baidu (百度) even raised the case to the level of charity affair:

而且这个案子毁了我国多年的对公益事业的努力, 一个案子毁了雷锋一生的成果

The case destroyed our effort committed to public charity, also ruined the lifetime fruit of Lei Feng (雷锋).

Most people considered it from the point of law and legal issue, and ridiculed the judge's sole reliance on deduction.

‘Clouds low in turning back’ (回首白云低) at Xici Hutong argues:


The judge applied the deduction in a wrong way. He should reconstruct the scene, the positions of Peng Xu and the witness, the location of defendant when the accuser slipped up, even the posture of Peng when he got off……,rather than the reaction taken afterwards. This put the cart before the horse, also vexed people for its anti-value logic.

In this wave of fury and condemnation, still some people appealed public to be temperate, such as Southern Metropolis Daily editor Lu Yaqian, discussed here on Jiang Xia 85's MSN Live Spaces blog:


What if Peng really did that? It's not impossible that he did. The community is revoltngi against social degeneration, but the consequence of this is actually that a justice covers over the truth, with morality being carried out only to tread all over itself. True tragedy only begins when we lose our faith in the social system.

No matter what the result of the 2nd appeal will be, this case is destined to be remembered in the field of law study in China. Just one more thing that bears mention: the report that depicts how Peng Yu behaved when he heard the judgment:


Peng Yu remained silent, eyes moist with tears. After a long while, he muttered: “I just want to go somewhere where justice can to be found.”


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