Why drivers in China intentionally kill the pedestrians they hit: China – s laws have encouraged the hit to kill phenomenon
Why Drivers in China Intentionally Kill the Pedestrians They Hit
Driven to Kill
Photo by Teh Eng Koon/AFP/Getty Pics
In April a BMW racing through a fruit market in Foshan in China`s Guangdong province knocked down a 2-year-old lady and spinned over her head. As the female`s grandmother shouted, «Stop! You`ve hit a child!» the BMW`s driver paused, then switched into switch sides and backed up over the female. The woman at the wheel drove forward once more, crushing the chick for a third time. When she eventually got out from the BMW, the unlicensed driver instantaneously suggested the horrified family a deal: «Don`t say that I was driving the car,» she said. «Say it was my hubby. We can give you money.»
It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then attempt to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it`s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forward on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: «It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.»
This two thousand eight television report features security camera footage of a dusty white Passat reversing at high speed and smashing into a 64-year-old grandmother. The Passat`s back wheels bounce up over her head and assets. The driver, Zhao Xiao Cheng, stops the car for a moment then hits the gas, causing his front wheels to roll over the woman. Then Zhao shifts into drive, wheels grinding the woman into the pavement. Zhao is not done. Twice more he shifts back and forward inbetween drive and switch sides, each time thudding over the grandmother`s bod. He then speeds away from her corpse.
Exceptionally, Zhao was found not guilty of intentional homicide. Accepting Zhao`s claim that he thought he was driving over a trash bag, the court of Taizhou in Zhejiang province sentenced him to just three years in prison for «negligence.» Zhao`s case was unusual only in that it was caught on movie. As the television anchor noted, «You can see online an endless stream of stories talking about cases similar to this one.»
«Double-hit cases» have been around for decades. I very first heard of the «hit-to-kill» phenomenon in Taiwan in the mid-1990s when I was working there as an English teacher. A fellow teacher would drive us to classes. After one near-miss of a motorcyclist, he said, «If I hit someone, I`ll hit him again and make sure he`s dead.» Liking my shock, he explained that in Taiwan, if you cripple a man, you pay for the injured person`s care for a lifetime. But if you kill the person, you «only have to pay once, like a burial fee.» He insisted he was serious–and that this was common.
Geoffrey Sant wrote about drivers in China who intentionally kill pedestrians. Ask him anything.
Most people agree that the hit-to-kill phenomenon stems at least in part from perverse laws on victim compensation. In China the compensation for killing a victim in a traffic accident is relatively puny–amounts typically range from $30,000 to $50,000–and once payment is made, the matter is over. By contrast, paying for lifetime care for a disabled survivor can run into the millions. The Chinese press recently described how one disabled man received about $400,000 for the very first twenty three years of his care. Drivers who determine to hit-and-kill do so because killing is far more economical. Indeed, Zhao Xiao Cheng–the man caught on a security camera movie driving over a grandmother five times–ended up paying only about $70,000 in compensation.
Security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forward on top of victims to make sure that they are dead.
In two thousand ten in Xinyi, movie captured a wealthy youthfull man reversing his BMW X6 out of a parking spot. He hits a 3-year-old boy, knocking the child to the ground and rolling over his skull. The driver then shifts his BMW into drive and crushes the child again. Remarkably, the driver then gets out of the BMW, puts the vehicle in switch roles, and guides it with his forearm as he walks the vehicle backward over the boy`s crumpled figure. The man`s foot is so close to the toddler`s head that, if alive, the boy could have reached out and touched him. The driver then puts the BMW in drive again, running over the boy one last time as he drives away.
Here too, the driver was charged only with accidentally causing a person`s death. (He claimed to have confused the boy with a cardboard box or trash bag.) Police rejected charges of murder and even of fleeing the scene of the crime, overlooking the fact that the driver ran over the boy`s head as he sped away.
These drivers are willing to kill not only because it is cheaper, but also because they expect to escape murder charges. In the days before movie cameras became widespread, it was uncommon to have evidence that a driver hit the victim twice. Even in today`s age of cellphone cameras, drivers seem certain that they can either bribe local officials or hire a lawyer to evade murder charges.
Perhaps the most horrific of these hit-to-kill cases are the ones in which the initial collision didn`t injure the victim gravely, and yet the driver came back and killed the victim anyway. In Sichuan province, an enormous, dirt-encrusted truck knocked down a 2-year-old boy. The toddler was only dazed by the initial suck, and instantly climbed to his feet. Eyewitnesses said that the boy went to fetch his umbrella, which had been thrown across the street by the influence, when the truck reversed and crushed him, this time killing him.
Despite the eyewitness testimony, the county chief of police announced that the truck had never reversed, never hit the boy a 2nd time, and that the wheels never spinned over the child. Meantime, one outraged website posted photographs appearing to showcase the child`s assets under the truck`s front wheel.
In each of these cases, despite movie and photographs showcasing that the driver hit the victim a 2nd, and often even a third, fourth, and fifth time, the drivers ended up paying the same or less in compensation and jail time than they would have if they had merely injured the victim.
With so many hit-to-kill drivers escaping serious penalty, the Chinese public has sometimes taken matters into its own mitts. In two thousand thirteen a crowd in Zhengzhou in Henan province hammer a wealthy driver who killed a 6-year-old after allegedly running him over twice. (A television report claims the crowd had acted on «false rumors.» However, at least five witnesses assert on camera that the man had run over the child a 2nd time.)
Of course, not every hit-to-kill driver escapes serious penalty. A man named Yao Jiaxin who in two thousand ten hit a bicyclist in Xian and returned to make sure she was dead–even stabbing the injured woman with a knife–was convicted and executed. In two thousand fourteen a driver named Zhang Qingda who had hit an elderly man in Jiayu Pass in Gansu province with his pickup truck and circled around to crush the man again was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
Both China and Taiwan have passed laws attempting to eradicate hit-to-kill cases. Taiwan`s legislature reformed Article six of its Civil Code, which had long restricted the capability to bring civil lawsuits on behalf of others (such as a person killed in a traffic accident). Meantime, China`s legislature has emphasized that multiple-hit cases should be treated as murders. Yet even when a driver hits a victim numerous times, it can be hard to prove intent and causation–at least to the satisfaction of China`s courts. Judges, police, and media often seem to accept rather unbelievable claims that the drivers hit the victims numerous times accidentally, or that the drivers confused the victims with inanimate objects.
My God. I am amazed that more of these cases don’t end in vigilante justice. More.
Hit-to-kill cases proceed, and hit-to-kill drivers regularly escape serious penalty. In January a woman was caught on movie repeatedly driving over an old man who had slipped in the snow. In April a school bus driver in Shuangcheng was accused of driving over a 5-year-old female again and again. In May a security camera filmed a truck driver running over a youthfull boy four times; the driver claimed that he had never noticed the child.
And last month the unlicensed woman who had killed the 2-year-old in the fruit market with her BMW–and then suggested to bribe the family–was brought to court. She claimed the killing was an accident. Prosecutors accepted her assertion, and recommended that the court reduce her sentence to two to four years in prison.
This light sentence would still be more of a penalty than many drivers have received for similar crimes. But it most likely won`t be enough to keep the next driver from putting his car in switch sides and hitting the gas.