Local authorities in eastern China pledged to thoroughly investigate a fatal crash in which the driver of a BMW sedan driver was accused of killing a 3.5-year-old boy by running over him four times, an incident that is drawing massive public outrage.
The boy, nicknamed Lele, was playing in a neighborhood in Xinyi, eastern Jiangsu Province on September 7, before being knocked down and run over by a BMW. Video footage shows the driver, surnamed Wu, driving over boy four times and leaving without calling for help or attempting to rescue the child.
The boy's father, surnamed Li, moved out of his neighborhood in Xinyi on Monday so as to avoid "thinking of his boy's tragic death," the Nanjing-based Yangzte Evening News reported Tuesday. The young father demanded a quick probe from local authorities, the paper added.
Local police have detained the driver on a traffic offense and dismissed the charge of murder.
The local government confirmed the accident during a news briefing Monday, and promised to carry out a thorough investigation into the incident and severely punish the driver. The police have seized his BMW.
Some legal experts attributed the low amount of compensation and accountability in deadly traffic accidents to such incidents.
China.com.cn said Tuesday in an article that some drivers would prefer victims in traffic accidents to die rather than only be injured, since a driver may have to take care of an injured person's treatment for life.
In contrast, the article said, the suspect only has to pay compensation or serve a jail term in deadly accidents.
Zhang Tingzhu, who helped draft the Law on Road Traffic Safety, told the Global Times that "in this case, the driver has to pay compensation for at least 20 years according to the tort law of China."
"The charge of merely a traffic offense, under which the driver has been remanded into police custody, does not necessarily mean the charge won't change," Zhang said.
Mo Shaoping, a criminal defense lawyer and a professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times Tuesday that the key to the case was to determine whether the death was intentional.
"If the driver denies that he did it on purpose, the police can determine the truth by collecting data in the car. Cars like BMW's have devices like reversing radar, which will help solve the case," Mo said.
The video clip of the incident circulated quickly on Internet forums, and it has erupted into public rage, with most of the public accusing the driver of disregarding life and intentionally committing murder.
Lu Xiang, a mother of a 3-year-old girl in Beijing, told the Global Times that she couldn't believe that a little child suffered such a brutal death. "The driver should be condemned for his action."
But the mother, who herself is a driver, also pointed out the possibility the driver might have been unaware of the situation at first. "He probably thought he crushed rubbish or something else. But I am quite confused as to why he continued to run over the boy after exiting his car."
Some people in the Chinese media are calling for authorities to deal with the driver seriously, saying sentencing the driver to death upholds the law, is socially fair, and promotes stability and harmony.
An opinion piece carried by cqnews.net Tuesday says that public frustration and a strong resentment of the rich, and the growing income gap, are fueling the outrage throughout society.
However, Zhou Xiaozheng, director of the Law and Sociology Research Center at Renmin University of China, says the public's reaction is not being focused in the right direction, as the gap between the rich and poor can lead to massive public anger toward the rich.
"The latest incident involving the sedan is only an individual case and must be handled through relevant laws," he said.