Call for Hit-and-Run Death Probe

A Chinese family demands justice for their daughter who was struck twice by a driver they believe is a member of a criminal gang.
2013-02-15
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Zhou Yan's father (l) hugs her body after she was hit and killed in a car accident in Lishui, Feb. 13, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Huang Zekai

The family of a university student who died after she was run over twice by a hit-and-run driver called on Friday for a probe into her death, saying they believed the driver was a member of a crime gang and that police had refused to interview eyewitnesses.

Zhou Yan, 21, was hit by a car late on Wednesday evening local time in Lishui city in eastern China's Jiangxi province while on a visit home for the Chinese New Year break, and was trying to struggle to her feet when the driver ran into her again before driving away, according to her cousin Huang Zekai.

"According to the verbal accounts by eyewitnesses, she was hit twice," Huang told RFA's Cantonese Service. "[The driver] got out to see if my cousin was still alive, and then he reversed the car [over her again]."

"This was a person without morals or humanity."

Huang said he imagined the driver must have been trying to avoid high compensation.

"But if he had just taken my sister to the hospital and saved her life, our family wouldn't have had any quarrel with him," he said.

Gang background

Huang said he had heard from reliable sources that the driver was a member of an organized criminal gang.

"I am sure that he has a gang background, but I can't say how; I have to protect other people," he said.

Huang said the background of the driver made it highly unlikely that his sister would receive justice.

"We are just an ordinary family," he said. "We aren't the rich and powerful kind."

"I am worried that if the driver is well-connected [with local government], that they will try to make light of this."

Zhou Yan's father said the family had already met with a refusal from police when they asked them to interview eyewitnesses to the accident. There were no security cameras installed along the stretch of road where his daughter was hit.

"This was such an evil act," he said, adding, "This should be taken as a criminal case."

"Firstly, the driver absconded. Secondly, they tried to make out it was someone else."

"There has been no progress, because they are all still on holiday [for Chinese New Year]. The traffic cops don't start back again until [Saturday], and the medical examiner can't open formal proceedings until they do."

'Go ahead, sue me!'

Zhou's death follows a string of fatal traffic accidents involving powerful figures, many of whom have gone unpunished.

In October, the chief of police in the northern city of Taiyuan came under fire amid allegations by a whistle-blowing blogger that his son beat up a traffic cop in front of onlookers, and that local authorities stopped the news from getting out.

In the best-known case outside China, a court in northern Hebei province sentenced the son of a high-ranking police officer involved in a hit-and-run road accident to six years in prison in January 2011, in spite of calls for a much harsher punishment after he caused the death of a female student.

Li Qiming's case brought him nationwide notoriety because of his defiant outburst to officials and angry witnesses to the incident: "Go ahead, sue me. My father is Li Gang!" he reportedly told them.

Li's outburst sparked widespread rage and satirical attacks from Chinese netizens. Li Gang was the deputy chief of Baoding's Beishi district police bureau at the time.

And a police officer in the central province of Henan was charged in October 2011 with "endangering public safety" after a car he was driving, allegedly while drunk, crashed, killing five people.

Wang Yinpeng, who heads a police station in Henan's Liangzhu township was formally charged with "endangering public security by dangerous means" after he lost control of his van in an accident in the town.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.