Friday, November 27, 2009

Crash & Punch: Money solves everything

There was a happy but expensive ending to yesterday's bike crash, fight drama. A deal with police was cut close to midnight, and the expat cyclist had to fork over 20,0000 yuan (US$2,930). It was unclear who got what of this hefty sum. No doubt, the police took a cut. And some of it probably went to pay medical fees for the alleged victim. On the positive side, no one was seriously injured and charges weren't pressed against the expat cyclist. After the money was paid, the police left the hospital and the expat was able to go home this morning after the doctors determined his internal injuries weren't serious.

The expat was able to give me a few more details today. He said he was flying down the descent when the Chinese cyclist riding the wrong way plowed into him. The expat was able to break his fall with his arm and his shoulder hit the ground as he did a roll. After coming out of the natural momentary shock, he saw the other cyclist - who wasn't seriously hurt - and gave the knucklehead a smack on the head. OK, this wasn't the best reaction, but when someone does something stupid and causes a nasty spill, you definitely feel a need to express your anger. If you can't do it with the local language, you reach for the universal language - like an openhanded pop on the head. Again, not the best move but understandable - and certainly forgivable.

As the expat got on his bike and tried to ride away, a bystander grabbed him and wouldn't let him go. When he tried to pull away, the bystander hit his torso. The expat then punched the guy in the face and he went down, apparently hitting his head on the pavement. As they struggled, a large crowd of gawkers surrounded them. "It was like ants on honey," he said. The crowd held the expat there until the police arrived. In China, it doesn't take long for a mob to form, and most of the time, the crowd won't take the foreigner's side.

The expat never had a chance to assess the injuries of the violent bystander. He thinks the guy needed stitches and possibly broke his nose. It's unclear whether the guy had to pay any kind of a fine or was assigned any blame. I seriously doubt he was.

On China's roads, a foreigner has little or no leverage. I once heard (from a third-hand source) of an accident involving an expat who was cycling down a road when a jaywalking pedestrian jumped out in front of him. The pedestrian suffered some serious head injuries and the expat had to pay the guy's medical bills. In many cases, the police are under pressure to nail the foreigner because if they don't, word will get out that they kow towed to the expat, and this could spark a protest or riot, especially in a village.

In an authoritarian society like China's, everything looks orderly and stable on the surface. But a small incident can quickly explode into a big one. People are often walking around with a load of grievances that they feel they are not allowed to vent. But all it takes is a little spark (e.g. a rumor that a rich foreigner ran into an elderly man and got away without paying compensation), and you can have an inferno by the end of the afternoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment