Opinion / Zhu Ping

Dog abuser's harassment case exposes need for rule of law

By Zhu Ping ( Updated: 2015-05-15 11:13

When it comes to stray dogs, dog-lovers and dog-haters always fight like cats and dogs. However, the latest seemingly trivial but high profile case of dog abuse in Xinjiang is much more than a storm in a teacup. It shows how essential and difficult it is to promote the rule of law in a society in a rapidly evolving society.

This past Sunday in Urumqi, Wang Jian, a father of a 3-year-old boy, beat a stray dog that lived at a 4S shop nearly to death, because the little dog barked at his son and terrified him. After his personal information was exposed online by some netizens, Wang was severely humiliated online, and in just two days received more than 2,000 intimidating text messages and 3,000 phone calls from dog-lovers across the nation. So did his wife and even a colleague who happened to be at the scene.

Such verbal violence nearly escalated into physical violence on Tuesday when Wang apologized and promised to pay about 10,000-yuan in compensation before dozens of protesting dog-lovers, some of whom came from as far as Guangzhou and Shanghai. Some protesters jumped on his car after Wang's father tried to argue, and let them go only after Wang bowed five times for beating the dog.

While Wang certainly committed an act of animal abuse in a country where animal rights awareness is rising, it is a pity that the dog lovers who in turn abused him showed little sympathy for the frightened toddler he was protecting, or for the father himself. When they forced Wang to bow five times, they were infringing on his human dignity.

Last week, a mother of a 2-year-old boy in Chengdu of Sichuan province was severely wounded when protecting her son from an unleashed hound. Going by the logic of Wang's case, dog lovers should have also called her thousands of times to apologize as well.

Indeed, the growing number of dog lovers reflects social progress as people attach much more importance to animal rights. But when they harassed Wang's family and friends, they were going too far.

China has an estimated 40 million stray dogs and 10 million stray cats, and dogs often attack people. How to deal with such a large number of stray animals is a question that has put urban management officers, many of whom are short of funds, in a quandary.

The existing animal protection law in China applies only to wild animals, and not pets, so those who abandon their pets don’t have to worry about penalties. Before a comprehensive animal protection law is enacted, the authorities need to draw regulations to ensure people who buy dogs as pets keep them for life, rather than abandoning them at will.

Developed countries have more than a century of animal rights and welfare, which evolved into a system of registration, reproduction, purchase and sale, as well as management. Only by granting pets IDs and legally punishing those who abandon their pets can we reduce the number of stray dogs and related conflicts.

The dog lovers in this case also exposed their ignorance of the law. Wang should have turned to the police rather than bow to pressure after being bullied online and physically harassed. Although there is no specific law to cover online bullying, the Supreme Court drew a regulation in October last year, saying Internet users or service providers who bring harm to others by exposing their private details including their address and other personal information, can be held accountable if the victims file a lawsuit.

It is not the first time that someone's privacy has been violated by posting his details online, leading to bullying. The regulation is far from enough. The legislative authorities need to deal with the thorny question of how to stop online violence, which is a newly emerging social problem in China.

This incident may be small, but hopefully it will spur China to make a bigger step towards rule of law.

The author is an editor with China Daily

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