Fri, Dec 02, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Chinese city mulling good Samaritan bill

START OF SOMETHING?Officials in Shenzhen are publishing draft rules to ‘encourage’ people to come to each other’s aid in the wake of an incident in which a two-year-old girl was left to die

The Guardian, BEIJING

A major Chinese city wants to introduce the country’s first “good Samaritan” rules to encourage citizens to help each other, after the death of a two-year-old girl, whose plight was ignored by passersby, horrified the nation.

Millions watched the surveillance footage showing the child, Wang Yue (王悅), being knocked down by a van, ignored by people and run over by a second vehicle before a woman finally came to her aid. The girl from Foshan, Guangdong Province, who was known as “Yueyue,” died in hospital.

Officials in the nearby city of Shenzhen have now published draft rules designed to encourage people to come to each other’s aid, the Guangzhou Daily reported.

It follows widespread calls for a national law in the wake of Yueyue’s death, with experts warning that many people were too frightened to help each other because of a spate of cases where people sued their rescuers, alleging they had caused the injuries in the first place. In some cases they may have been genuinely mistaken, but in others the claims seem to have been extortion.

According to the Guangzhou Daily, the new rules free good Samaritans from legal responsibility for the condition of the person they help, except in the case of gross negligence.

“This can be seen as the core of the regulation. Its goal is to free citizens who do good things from worries,” said Zhang Jian (張健), a lawyer in Shenzhen.

Those who falsely accuse helpers will face punishments ranging from having to make a public apology to paying fines or even detention. Other measures include offering legal aid to helpers who are sued and official visits to Good Samaritans to express the city’s appreciation. The rules also say that the burden of evidence lies on the person accusing a rescuer, not on the person who carried out the rescue.

In several cases, police and courts have demanded that the helper prove his or her innocence, while the extortionist has not needed to produce evidence. One judge ordered a man to pay more than 45,000 yuan (US$7,100) to an old woman he had taken to hospital, arguing it was common sense that he would not have gone to such trouble unless he had caused her fall.

“I am very happy that this regulation has come out. People have been hoping for it for a long time,” said Tan Fang (談方) of South China Normal University, who has set up a foundation giving legal support to wrongly accused helpers. “I hope Shenzhen can strictly enforce the regulation. I also hope the regulation will be adopted by more provinces and become a national law.”

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