Police in eastern China are reinvestigating the case of a man who was detained for 12 days after rescuing his neighbor from what she says was an attempted rape.
According to an article published Monday in The Beijing News, a public security bureau in Fuzhou, Fujian province, said that the detained man, surnamed Zhao, “deliberately injured” another man, surnamed Li, on Dec. 26. But Zhao maintains that he had acted to protect his neighbor, a woman surnamed Zou — an account that both Zou and her roommate, who witnessed the alleged attack, have corroborated.
In an interview with a local news program on Monday, Zou accuses Li of following her home, kicking the door open, and trying to rape her. Li, however, tells the reporter a different story, saying he and the woman had met for a drink, and afterward she had invited him to walk her home.
At the time of the incident, police officers wrote a report but did not immediately take further action. On Dec. 29, Li filed an official complaint, claiming Zhao had left him hospitalized with internal injuries. During the TV interview, he can be seen lifting his shirt to show what appear to be old scars.
Police detained Zhao the same day and did not release him until Jan. 10, after the local prosecutor declined to approve his arrest warrant. On Sunday, Zhao took to microblogging platform Weibo to rally support, arguing that he had been treated unfairly. According to the legal blog China Law Network, suspects may be criminally detained for up to 37 days in cases resulting in serious injury or death or administratively detained for up to 15 days in cases resulting in only minor injuries.
In the past 48 hours, the case has drawn considerable attention on Chinese social media, with netizens expressing concerns that Zhao’s detention may deter would-be good Samaritans. “It’s just bullshit to say that a person who’s helping someone at the center of a dangerous crime should have to act cautiously,” wrote one user in a post that received over 30,000 likes. Despite some Chinese cities enacting laws to protect those who rush to help others in emergencies, well-intentioned people are still often taken advantage of by opportunists and con artists, to the extent that many now think twice before intervening in the affairs of others.
Wang Fei, a criminal lawyer at Beijing Zebo Law Firm, agrees that Zhao’s behavior, as reported by media, should constitute justifiable defense. “I’m personally of the opinion that his actions were not excessive and did not cause serious harm,” Wang told Sixth Tone. “If the alleged perpetrator was trying to commit rape or another violent crime, then it was not an undue defense.”
The lawyer added that because Zhao at one point attempted to get away from Li, he, too, had been in imminent danger. “And considering the prosecutors’ decision not to arrest [Zhao], perhaps they also feel that he acted in justifiable self-defense.”
According to Article 20 of China’s criminal law, anyone who intervenes in an assault, murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, or other violent crime, causing injury or death to the perpetrator of the illegal act, shall not bear criminal responsibility.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Andrejs Zemdega/VCG)