Stories of traffic accident scams often make the news in China, as there are many who try to win financial compensation by setting up an accident. But what if it is not the driver, but the victim who gets scammed, because the guilty party pretends not to have the money to pay for compensation?
It is what happened to the family of Zhao Yong (赵勇), whose emotional essay and video post have become a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media over the past week.
“It has been 776 days since the day of my father’s accident,” Zhao says at the start of his post of November 22, in which he tells the story of how his life changed forever when his father, riding a bicycle, was hit by a car in Tangshan (Hebei) in 2015. “During this time, my father, who is now lying beside me in a vegetative state, had to undergo four surgeries.”
The story of Zhao Yong has been discussed by thousands of Weibo netizens over the past few days, especially when Zhao announced that his father had passed away on December 1st as a result of his injuries. “We were unable to save him. Today, my father has gone,” Zhao posted on his Weibo account (@认真的赵先森) on Friday afternoon.
In a moving essay, Zhao describes how his happy family life suddenly turned into a nightmare on October 6th 2015; the day of his father’s grave accident. As his father had to undergo heavy injuries and had to receive immediate medical care at the hospital, Zhao Yong struggled to pay the hospital’s 10,000 yuan-per-day (±1510$) fees. Living as a vagabond, Zhao did everything he could to scrape together the money to keep his father alive; selling his house, selling his paintings, and seeking media attention for his case.
Zhao’s essay, that features a black and white photo of his parents in happy times, has gained over 10 million views on Weibo this week, and the video in which he tells his story has been shared more than 400,000 times, receiving over 116,000 comments.
Through text and video (which also includes recorded talks with the responsible driver), Zhao discloses how the current legal in system in China “is only effective when it comes to people with morals, not when it comes to the scum of society.”
Although the local court in Hebei ordered the responsible driver Huang Shufen (黄淑芬) to pay 850,000 RMB (±128.550$) in compensation to Zhao’s family for medical costs, not only did Huang not come up with the money, she also treated the victim’s family in a rude and unreasonable way.
“I don’t have a low income,” she said in one of the conversations recorded by Zhao in the video: “But I have loans to pay and I have no morals. So what’s the use in talking to me?” Zhao says that although Huang never paid the ordered money, she did buy a house and a car and went on a New Year’s holiday to Thailand.
Zhao describes how she told him: “I have bought a house and a car now, my money is gone.” Through a friend, Zhao discovered that within months after the accident, Huang bought the car and the house and registered them under her daughter’s name to transfer all of her assets.
Chinese media reporting on this story have dubbed it as a “textbook example” (“教科书式耍赖”) of “shameless refusal” to accept (legal) responsibility.
According to the latest news, the Tangshan local court has frozen the assets that are still under Huang Shufen’s name on November 24, and has since detained her for 15 days for failing to comply with the court’s order. Meanwhile, Zhao’s family still never received a single penny and have not received any messages from the driver’s family concerning the death of Zhao’s father.
In Zhao’s post, he shared a picture of how his appearances have changed over the past two years, during which he grew from an ambitious young graduate with a job, house, girlfriend, and hopeful future, into a worn-out man who has given up everything to save his father and is stuck in a pile of debt.
Addressing Huang Shufen, Zhao writes: “I hope you’ll also read this essay with your daughter. I have used up all my youth over these past two years. I have no escape. But you also cannot hide. It is not hard to discover you actually do have a conscience. Don’t leave me out in the cold, and show some basic humanity. The court has decided – you have no excuses left.”
On Weibo, netizens strongly condemn Huang Shufen’s actions, and also speak out against China’s legal system. “Can’t they auction all of her family property?” one netizen wonders.
“This just shows that China’s law is not healthy and that the system of legal enforcement is weak,” one person writes: “It gives scammers too much opportunity.”
“People like her are morally bankrupt. She has money to buy a house and a car, but can’t compensate the person she hit with her car. She simply has no morals,” some commenters say.
In China, traffic accidents and their aftermath often become much-discussed topics. According to Chinese law, persons who injure a victim in such accident often have to pay large sums in compensation.
This has led to situations in which it has occurred that drivers intentionally kill the pedestrians they have hit, because the compensation for killing a victim in a traffic accident is relatively small compared to paying for the care for a disabled or seriously injured survivor. This phenomenon has been researched and described by Geoffrey Sant in “Driven to Kill” (link).
It has also generated a business of professional scammers, also called ‘pengci,’ who deliberately crash against cars and then demand compensation. These kinds of fraud cases make drivers in China very vulnerable. But, as Zhao’s story points out, when a person is truly a victim of an accident and the culprit refuses to pay, they are not just vulnerable – but also become powerless.