New info emerges in good Samaritan case

Updated: 2012-01-17 09:37

By An Baijie and Cao Yin (China Daily)

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Official says man thought blameless had admitted guilt

BEIJING - Media reports about a high-profile case that is said to have deterred good Samaritans from helping others were misleading and harmful to social values, a judicial official said.

Peng Yu, a resident of Nanjing, Jiangsu province, claimed to have helped a 64-year-old woman after seeing her fall as she tried to board a bus in November 2006. But in 2007, a court demanded he pay the woman 45,876 yuan ($7,250) for her medical costs. The case triggered widespread discussion of whether good Samaritans should come to the aid of elderly people. It was also blamed for a later decline in Chinese people's willingness to help others.

After the trial, many people thought Peng was blameless and had been unjustly treated by the court. But he had admitted to the police that he knocked the woman over, Liu Zhiwei, secretary of the Committee of Political Science and Law under the Communist Party of China's Nanjing Committee, which oversees local judicial departments, told Xinhua News Agency's Outlook Weekly magazine.

The police report, which quoted Peng and the woman at the scene of the accident, had for unknown reasons been lost when the court heard the case. The woman's son showed the court a photo of the report taken by his mobile phone, he said.

At the first part of the trial, Peng did not deny knocking the woman over. But he changed his testimony during the second part of the trial and said he had not knocked the woman down and was just offering her help, according to Liu.

The verdict was based on police testimony, but it was questioned by some media organizations, which said that the photo taken by the woman's son could not be used as a proof.

After the trial, Peng and the woman agreed he would compensate her 10,000 yuan, and both parties agreed not to reveal details of the case to the media, Liu said.

Peng remained silent, refusing all the interviews.

Liu's comments on Peng's case sparked heated online discussions on Monday. The case quickly shot to the top 10 discussions on Sina weibo, China's most popular micro-blogging service.

More than 720,000 micro-bloggers had something to say about the case. Many felt cheated and did not know what to believe.

"Jianyangjreey", a micro-blogger from Qingdao, Shandong province, said he was puzzled.

"The media couldn't find Peng after the verdict, but now they report Peng confessed to the fact of knocking down the old woman. The problem is where was he before," he said.

Qian Jun, a lawyer at Ying Ke Law Firm in Beijing, said some of the facts might have been distorted when the case was first reported by the media.

"What netizens said is subjective. But the verdict should be in keeping with legal evidence, not public sentiment," he said. "Matters that the public thinks right can sometimes be wrong by law."

Tan Fang, a professor of government at South China Normal University, established a foundation in March to provide financial and legal aid to people who got into trouble by helping the senior citizens.

"It's not enough for the judicial official to clarify the case, because what really concerns the public is not the case itself, but declining recognition of some old values," Tan said.