Beating a thief: Violation of human rights?

By Zhang Xi (
Updated: 2007-07-11 09:30

A two-minute video on the Internet stirred up a hot debate from web surfers recently. Shot at Guangdong University of Technology in southern China's Guangdong province, a group of students are shown kicking an alleged bike thief.

At the beginning of the video, many students and uniformed campus guards surrounded a blue bicycle and a 20-something year-old man who was kneeling on the ground to write down in a notebook.

Right after he handed it to a guard, someone shouted, "He is a bike thief. Beat him!" And soon afterwards, several students began to kick the man in the face, and he fell to the ground. Some beat him with books and grabbed his hair.

One young man tried to prove he was the owner of the blue bike by showing others his name on the bicycle and telling them the price of the bike. His words added fuel to the fire. Students continued to beat the suspect without listening to campus guards who were trying to persuade them to stop.

Meanwhile, the suspect kept shouting he did not steal the bike, but nobody paid attention to what he was saying. Whenever he tried to stand up, he was pushed back down to the ground.

After being beaten for about one and half minutes, the guards helped the teary and swollen-faced suspect stand up. But the video did not end here. A campus guard ordered the suspect to put on a ripped plastic bag with the words "bike thief" and his name on it. Then the guard took a photo of the suspect.

To mark the end of the video, a subtitle read, "The plastic top fits him well."

Reporters from the newspaper Information Times interviewed some campus guards at the university on Monday but all interviewees said this event never happened. However, another guard revealed some students caught a man who attempted to steal a bike at about 5am some days ago. He was severely beaten and could not move. Finally he was sent to hospital by police officers.

Many web surfers commented on the video. Most of them thought these students should beat the alleged thief harder. And some even believed this kind of behavior is not a violation of human rights. Some said, "We should beat these thieves to show the society's justice." Only a few viewers questioned the rationality of beating a thief. "Thieves are human beings. Even the police officers do no have the right to physically harm them."

The reporters also interviewed some students at the university. A large number of them believe bike thieves should be beaten. A student said angrily, "I cannot help being angry with the thieves because my two bikes were stolen." Very few students think their behavior violate the law.

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