(Ecns.cn) –If you are injured or happen to fall down in the street, in China you may be left to fend for yourself. A series of cases involving people getting sued after helping strangers has led many people to become wary of lending a hand to their fellow man – or, as is often the case, to an elderly woman.
Just last Sunday, an 88-year-old man who had fallen down later died after being ignored by bystanders in Wuhan, Hubei Province. This year the number of similar cases has been increasing.
The "Farmer and the Snake" trick
In November of 2006, an elderly woman surnamed Xu in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, suffered two fractures after falling at a bus station. She later successfully sued a man named Peng Yu, who claimed to have voluntarily helped her.
Despite a lack of evidence, a local court ruled that Peng was guilty and ordered him to pay compensation of over 40,000 yuan ($6,184) to the woman. The verdict was based on the "logical thinking" that it was highly possible that Peng had knocked the woman down, otherwise he would not have helped her to hospital. The case was eventually settled out of court with mediation from provincial officials.
Since then, the name "Peng Yu" has become a label for such cases, leading many to believe that helping out an old lady might not be the best idea.
In August 2009, another senior citizen named Wang Xiuzhi fell to the ground when she violated regulations by crossing the guardrail along a road in Tianjin. A driver named Xu Yunhe saw the whole scene and extended her a helping hand by sending her to the hospital. However, Xu was later brought to court by the lady, who claimed his car had hit her.
Although traffic police tested Xu's car and found no evidence that it had struck the woman, the court ordered Xu to pay her 100,000 yuan ($15,460) in compensation, saying there was a possibility that the lady had fallen for fear of being struck by his approaching car.
Many people accused Wang of twisting the facts and framing the man. When she emerged in a wheelchair from Tianjin No. 1 Intermediate People's Court one afternoon, Wang and her relatives came under siege from angry citizens. Xu appealed the ruling, insisting that he was innocent.
In another case, Yin Hongbin from Nantong, Jiangsu Province, was driving a coach when he saw an old lady lying on the ground near her damaged tricycle on August 26. He pulled over and came to the lady's assistance. When he was sure she wasn't badly hurt, he entrusted her to one of her fellow villagers, and the old lady expressed her gratitude.
To the driver's surprise and outrage, the old lady's son later telephoned the traffic police, claiming that a coach had struck his mother and the driver had fled the seen.
Yin was lucky that the video camera on his coach had recorded his actions, and that a passenger also verified his account. Though the old lady and her son thanked Yin after the police confirmed the facts, the incident stirred public outrage.