CHINA> Regional
Hangzhou drag racer gets 3-year jail term
By Qian Yanfeng and Wang Hongyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-21 07:42

A 20-year-old college student whose speeding car killed a pedestrian during a drag race in downtown Hangzhou received a three-year jail sentence in court Monday.

Hu Bin, a sophomore at Hangzhou Normal University, hit the headlines two months ago when his car struck Tan Zhuo, 25, as he crossed the road on May 7.

Hangzhou drag racer gets 3-year jail term
Hu Bin during his trial at the Xihu district court in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province, July 20, 2009. [Xinhua]Hangzhou drag racer gets 3-year jail term

Hu was formally charged with a traffic offense when his trial began in a local court five days ago.

Outside the court, Tan Yue, the victim's father, said he was dissatisfied with the verdict, which was too lenient, and that the family planned to appeal to a higher court.

The family has already sued Hu for 1.13 million yuan in compensation for Tan's death.

Hu's parents Monday also said they were dissatisfied, saying the sentence was too harsh.

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At a press conference following the verdict, Chief Judge Pan Bo said Hu was convicted of a "traffic offense resulting in death" instead of "endangering public security" - a more serious charge that the victim's family wanted, which could lead to a maximum sentence of death. The lesser charge was appropriate because the collision was unintentional, the judge said.

Pan said the charge of endangering public security applies to those whose crimes are deliberate or people who do not stop to assist the victim.

"But that's not the case for Hu, as he did stop the car and call the police after the accident," Pan said.

In China, the charge of "traffic offense resulting in death" usually leads to a three-year jail term.

Pan said Hu could have received a lighter sentence than three years because his family had given monetary compensation to the victim's family.

According to a Supreme People's Court regulation, courts can hand down a more lenient verdict if the defendant has already compensated the victim.

However, Pan said Hu ignored traffic rules and was speeding in a crowded district in a car that had been illegally modified.

The court said Hu's Mitsubishi Evo has been refitted to reach fast speeds and its engine, exhaust system and tires were all illegally modified.

"His behavior has had an extremely bad social impact, so the court decided to maintain the three-year sentence," he said.

The case has received a lot of attention online, with discussion focusing on Hu's wealthy background, his response in the immediate aftermath of the crash and the bungled police investigation.

During the investigation, police were forced to apologize for statements made one day after the crash in which they said the driver was traveling at 70km/h, which is 20km/h above the speed limit.

A forensic analysis later revealed that Hu's car was traveling between 84 and 101 km/h on the road, which had a speed limit of 50 km/h.

Many netizens viewed the mistake as general police incompetence.

Qiu Baochang, a Beijing-based lawyer, said Hu's punishment was in line with the law, but that legislation should be strengthened to deal with frequent road crashes.

"I would also suggest raising the compensation amount because the loss of life is irreversible to the victim's family," he said.

Road accidents are one of the major killers in China. In the first six months this year, a total of 29,866 people died on Chinese roads, despite a 10.5 percent drop year-on-year.