Outcry over punishment for foreign traffic offender

Questions raised over handling foreign student who assaulted a police officer.

A video appeared online on July 9 showing the rider of a scooter shouting aggressively at a traffic police officer, shoving him in the chest and eventually chasing the officer away in downtown Fuzhou City, Fujian Province on the same day. In the background, a young woman could clearly be seen trying but failing to get the scooter back on its wheels.

According to www.guancha.cn, a witness said the officer had asked the foreigner to move the bike to the side of the road, but was ignored. When the officer went up the bike and removed the key, the man started to shout “give it to me, give it to me” and shoved the officer. It can be clearly seen from the video that during the whole process, the officer did not retaliate or verbally abuse the foreigner. The foreigner was also very much bigger than the officer in question. The witness also said the man argued with the officer in Chinese: “I am a foreigner. I don’t know Chinese law!” 

A crowd quickly gathered and prevented the man from leaving the scene. The man became subdued once reinforcements arrived, the witness said.

A day after the incident, Fuzhou police said in an official statement that a traffic police officer stopped a foreign student studying in a Fuzhou university who was illegally carrying a passenger at an intersection of Yangqiao and Baima roads at around 6:30pm on July 9. The foreigner refused to cooperate and remonstrated with the policeman. The statement said the police had given the man an appropriate penalty for violating traffic rules and that the man had written a statement of remorse about his behavior. It also said the college he is studying at had called him in to receive further instruction. The police stated clearly that foreigners in China must obey Chinese law.

The statement soon sparked outcry online, as people questioned whether the punishment had been too lenient just because he was a foreigner.

“If it was in the US, he would have already been shot.” 

“Just a written apology? The scene is so ugly that I really feel aggrieved for the policeman.”

“Uncle Police, you are making your work more difficult by enforcing the law like this.”

Later the police responded to btime.com: “The punishment is mainly criticism and education because he is a student,” according to www.guancha.cn.

The response aroused yet more criticism.

“If he were a Chinese student, would the punishment be the same?” 

“The student is an adult above 18, why shouldn’t he be detained for assaulting a police officer?”

On Friday, the international college of Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, where the man is studying revealed his identity on its official website. It said Younes, an Egyptian student at the college, rode a scooter, illegally carrying a passenger, and argued with a police officer who stopped him at about 6:30pm on July 9. It said he had been fined for violating traffic regulations on non-motor vehicle.

It also said the student was now on disciplinary probation and the college would strengthen its management and training of foreign students to make sure they comply with Chinese laws and regulations.

According to Chinese traffic law, where a pedestrian, rider or driver of a non-motor vehicle violates the provisions governing road passage in laws and regulations on road traffic safety, he shall be given a disciplinary warning or be fined not less than 5 yuan (73 US cents) but not more than 50 yuan.

According to the law on penalties for administration of public security, if one obstructs a police officer in the execution of his duty, the penalties can be warning, fine of no more than 200 yuan. If the offense is deemed serious, one can get administrative detention of between five to 10 days and a fine of no more than 500 yuan. To a foreigner who acts against the administration of public security, leaving the country within a time limit or deportation attached to a penalty may be applicable.

ThePaper.cn quoted Yin Qingli, a lawyer based in Beijing, who said that he should have been given a more severe punishment.

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