Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Legal perspective of Great Wall death

By Xie Caifeng (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-13 07:47

Legal perspective of Great Wall death

A section of the Great Wall at Badaling in the suburbs of Beijing was one of the most crowded scenic spots in China during the National Day holiday. [Photo/China Daily]

Last week, a 70-year-old Chinese woman from Heilongjiang province died on the Great Wall after she was knocked down by a tourist from Canada, who reportedly was running quickly down some steps.

Does this constitute a crime? The answer varies. The district police governing the place where the incident happened concluded it was a pure "accident" after their investigation. Therefore, the police did not launch a criminal investigation but guided the woman's family and the Canadian woman into civil mediation.

However, many Chinese netizens suspect the police providing favorable treatment to the tourist because of her nationality. Frankly, it is a common mindset among some Chinese because the government offered favorable treatment to foreign enterprises and citizens during the early years of opening-up.

And several legal experts have argued that running down the steps constitutes negligent homicide according to Chinese criminal law, as it is an action that puts others at risk.

The crime of negligent homicide in China consists of four aspects, namely an action results in death, the act itself, the causal relationship between the action and the death, the action was committed because of gross negligence. The last element usually is the most decisive one. It assumes a person has a duty not to engage in an action that may foreseeable be of danger to others.

It is hard to give a firm conclusion based on the reported facts and details. But the reasonable assumption is that a running person may bump into others and hurt them, but not kill them.

There are two common ways to settle a civil dispute, amicable mediation or court judgment. In either case, the Canadian woman should provide monetary compensation to the injured party either in the spirit of equitable liability principle or fault liability principle according to Chinese law. The total sum is usually hundreds of thousands of yuan subject to the merits of each case. If two parties cannot reach a consensus on compensation, the injured party may file a case with a court.

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