TEA LEAVES

CROWD­FUND­ING HAS BE­COME A HELP­FUL BUT CON­TRO­VER­SIAL CHAR­ITY CHAN­NEL

The World of Chinese - - Ed­i­tor’s Let­ter - – TAN YUNFEI (谭云飞)

茶话会

Af­ter killing four peo­ple in a car ac­ci­dent on July 8 in Deyang, Sichuan prov­ince, mo­torist Yang Long faced not only lengthy jail­time, but also a hefty com­pen­sa­tion claim. His so­lu­tion? Crowd­fund­ing.

Yang raised 23,935 RMB from 1,215 con­trib­u­tors on the crowd­fund­ing plat­form Qing­song­chou (“easy funds”) be­fore on­line out­rage en­sued. Qing­song­chou re­moved Yang’s page and re­funded the con­trib­u­tors, but caught se­ri­ous heat for fail­ing to prop­erly re­view what crit­ics called an “absurd ini­tia­tive.”

The in­ci­dent has shed light on a grow­ing prac­tice among those sud­denly sad­dled with enor­mous bills in a coun­try with few so­cial safety nets. Bei­jing-based Qing­song­chou is one of the 22 on­line fundrais­ing plat­forms ap­proved by the Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs. By 2018, 1.6 mil­lion fam­i­lies had used the plat­form to raise more than 20 bil­lion RMB.

Yu Liang, the plat­form’s founder and vice-pres­i­dent, told the 21st Cen­tury Busi­ness Her­ald that the suc­cess of the com­pany’s “star prod­uct,” Dabing Ji­uzhu (“crit­i­cal ill­ness as­sis­tance”), was due to their use of so­cial me­dia plat­forms like Wechat. Speak­ing to Peo­ple’s Daily, Yu at­trib­uted the app’s pop­u­lar­ity to the ur­gent need for fi­nan­cial sup­port

within an ex­pen­sive health­care sys­tem.

Re­search pub­lished by the Na­tional Can­cer Cen­ter in 2016 found that, 77.6 per­cent of the fam­i­lies of can­cer pa­tients be­tween 2012 and 2014 suf­fered “un­man­age­able fi­nan­cial bur­den.” Some pa­tients have even re­fused treat­ment due to the high costs, pre­fer­ring death over bank­ruptcy.

On­line crowd­fund­ing has be­come a crit­i­cal life­line for many in the smart­phone era. How­ever, some fundrais­ers, such as the er­rant driver Yang, have been ac­cused of tak­ing ad­van­tage of the sys­tem and ma­nip­u­lat­ing the public’s good­will. Sto­ries of ex­ag­ger­ated ill­nesses, friv­o­lous ex­penses, and phony sob sto­ries have also stretched donors’ pa­tience thin.

In the 2016 case of Luo Yix­iao, a Shen­zhen cou­ple raised over 2 mil­lion RMB for their 6-year-old daugh­ter’s leukemia treat­ment, be­fore it was re­vealed they had three apart­ments and med­i­cal in­sur­ance. In a sim­i­lar case that year, an­other crowd­fund­ing cou­ple, who owned a Mercedes and a di­a­mond ring, de­fended their ac­tions as that “a sick child shouldn’t mean [they] had to wear 10 RMB cloth­ing.” Such in­ci­dents have dented public con­fi­dence in on­line phi­lan­thropy, as donors felt ex­ploited into main­tain­ing some­one else’s high qual­ity of life.

Lawyer Yue Shen­shan told China Na­tional Ra­dio that China’s 2016 Char­ity Law makes no pro­vi­sions for pri­vate on­line ini­tia­tives. “Fundrais­ing plat­forms are not re­quired to, and may not be able to ver­ify [proof].” Ac­cord­ing to Yu, Qing­song­chou is still im­prov­ing its iden­tity ver­i­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dures, but hos­pi­tals and civil af­fairs bu­reaus are re­luc­tant to co­op­er­ate. As an ed­i­to­rial in Bei­jing Evening News com­mented, the com­mon be­lief that only peo­ple in dire straits beg from strangers may not ap­ply to the dig­i­tal era. But if public sym­pa­thy is ex­hausted, those who truly need help will be the big­gest losers.

A “road rage” in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a mus­cled thug in a BMW and a 41-year-old cy­clist was al­ways go­ing to end badly. Many in China are sur­prised, though, that it was the ag­gres­sor, Liu Hai­long, who ended up dead—and that pros­e­cu­tors freed the cy­clist from le­gal cen­sure, since he had acted in self-de­fense.

The in­ci­dent, cap­tured on sur­veil­lance footage, be­gan when Liu’s sedan hit Yu Haim­ing’s bi­cy­cle in Kun­shan, Jiangsu prov­ince, on Au­gust 29. Bran­dish­ing a ma­chete, an en­raged (and drunk) Liu at­tacked Yu, but the cy­clist man­aged to seize the knife and hacked Liu sev­eral times be­fore po­lice ar­rived; Liu later died at the hos­pi­tal.

No pros­e­cu­tor would rel­ish try­ing to con­vince a jury that Yu should face jail for man­slaugh­ter, par­tic­u­larly af­ter rev­e­la­tions of Liu’s long crim­i­nal record for as­sault and theft. Along with im­ages of his heav­ily tat­tooed torso, this strongly sug­gested the “vic­tim” was a vi­o­lent ca­reer gang­ster.

But China doesn’t have ju­ries, or even a pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence. In­stead, cases like Yu’s are de­cided by procu­ra­tors who keep one eye on the law—and the other on public opin­ion

Yu, a restau­rant man­ager with a seem­ingly spot­less past, was hailed as a hero whose only crime was try­ing to es­cape death. “Let’s re­ward him for re­mov­ing bad guys

from so­ci­ety!” Yu’s sup­port­ers wrote on Weibo.

Le­gal opin­ion was di­vided. Lawyer Bao Hu told China Daily that Yu’s coun­ter­at­tack, af­ter Liu had al­ready lost the weapon, had crossed the line from self-de­fense to ex­ces­sive force.

Last year, the same news­pa­per com­mented on the con­tro­ver­sial case of a 21-year-old in Shan­dong prov­ince, also called Yu, who fought off four men who’d sex­u­ally as­saulted his mother while col­lect­ing debt, killing one. The pa­per warned that China’s self-de­fense should not “be­come a ‘zom­bie code’ that is not ap­pli­ca­ble in prac­tice.” It noted that pros­e­cu­tors in the Shan­dong case “re­sponded to public opin­ion” by order­ing a re­trial, adding that “it is nec­es­sary for the ju­di­ciary to take into ac­count the en­tirety of a case, in­clud­ing the hu­man el­e­ment.”

China’s self-de­fense laws have a mixed record, with cases of­ten re­ly­ing on public out­cry to pro­voke ju­di­cial in­quiry. In one com­mon case type—a wife killing a vi­o­lent hus­band af­ter years of abuse—courts have shown lit­tle con­sis­tency, with sen­tences rang­ing from death to sus­pended jail time, ac­cord­ing to Guo Jian­mei of the Le­gal Aid Cen­ter of Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity.

In 2009, 21-year-old wait­ress Deng Yu­jiao was first ar­rested, then com­mit­ted to a psy­chi­atric in­sti­tu­tion, then re­leased, re­tried, and even­tu­ally al­lowed to walk free for killing a lo­cal of­fi­cial who had tried to rape her at a KTV. As with the Kun­shan case, public sym­pa­thy for Deng prompted au­thor­i­ties to seek a le­gal res­o­lu­tion: Deng had turned her­self in, and killed her as­sailant in self-de­fense. In the Kun­shan case, ex­perts de­ter­mined that it was Yu’s first “de­fen­sive” blow that sev­ered Liu’s artery and caused the blood loss that killed him.

How­ever, in 2016, ke­bab seller Xia Jun­feng was ex­e­cuted for killing two mu­nic­i­pal man­age­ment of­fi­cials ( cheng­guan) al­leged to have at­tacked him. The ex­e­cu­tion an­gered many, partly be­cause cheng­guan are widely loathed for their vi­o­lent be­hav­ior and have been im­pli­cated in dozens of deaths and as­saults over the years. China’s self-de­fence laws may not be “zom­bie,” but don’t al­ways work as they should.

Thank you for read­ing The World of Chi­nese all of these years. Due to the ris­ing cost of pro­duc­tion, The World of Chi­nese will be in­creas­ing its re­tail price to 29 RMB and an­nual sub­scrip­tion price to 174 RMB within China. The price of an an­nual sub­scrip­tion over­seas (in­clud­ing ship­ping) will in­crease to 74 US dol­lars. For those who have al­ready bought a sub­scrip­tion, the new price will take ef­fect af­ter the end of your cur­rent sub­scrip­tion pe­riod.

As al­ways, we will strive to pro­vide the most au­then­tic and ex­cit­ing China sto­ries to all our read­ers, and ap­pre­ci­ate your con­tin­ued sup­port.

The peo­ple’s court in Badong county, Hu­nan prov­ince, ruled that Deng Yu­jiao acted in self­de­fense in 2009

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