Monday, May 31, 2010

Another curious late night Beijing street scene

While walking home through the hutongs around midnight a few days ago, I encountered a middle-aged man who appeared to have been knocked down by a car.

He seemed to be a local resident, and was being attended to by a few friends or neighbours.

I know some first aid, but would have been wary of getting involved (too many concerns, unfortunately, about being screwed over as a foreigner: either being targeted as a charitable soft touch who may assist with the hospital fees, or being blamed for causing or exacerbating the injuries, or being given a hard time by the police for.... well, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time). I did have a quick look at him to try to ascertain that he was going to be OK, and he didn't seem to be in too much distress: still lucid, no external bleeding or obvious broken bones. He was lying on the ground, and complaining about the state of his leg; but his friends had made him comfortable with some blankets, and it didn't look like there was anything seriously wrong.

The police were on the scene already (though not attempting to offer any first aid; they're probably not trained in it here), and an ambulance showed up a few moments later.

The astonishing thing was that the guy who had apparently caused the accident was still around, having pulled up a hundred yards or so down the street. Judging by the scrape on his wing, I deduced that he had grazed the wall as he'd parked there. (I don't think this was connected to the injured man; that would have been a near-side collision, and this was off-side. And there was a corresponding gouge in the wall next to his car.)

The guy was off-his-face drunk, barely able to stand; he was shouting abuse at the injured man (who he seemed to think was malingering), and threatening to get into a fight with the three policemen who were trying to restrain him from threatening or attacking his victim.

Why, you may ask, was this homicidal moron not already under arrest? Why, indeed!

I imagine, alas, that it was almost certainly because the policemen judged that he was probably too well-connected to mess with, or at least rich enough to be able to bribe them into sparing his licence.

That's just about the extent of the 'rule of law' in this country. If you have money, you usually get off scot-free.

At least - if he wasn't a scarily highly-placed big shot; and if the police eventually managed to get him calmed down and sobered up a bit - he would probably also have been induced to sling some cash to the injured man to cover his hospital bills. (Insurance? I doubt it. Neither of them.)

This is the country I live in. I get a bit frightened and depressed about it sometimes. And very, very sorry for the billion plus people who live here and have nowhere else they can go.

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