Insurance for a Moral Dilemma Print
Real China
Friday, 23 October 2015 22:28

Chinese online bill-pay system, Alipay, belonging to the Alibaba group, and similar to the western Paypal, recently issued a new insurance policy, to partly indemnify those who help the elderly after they fall in the streets.

What does this mean?

In China, people are afraid to help if they see an elderly person fall in the street, because if they do, the elders may claim that the person who helped them up was responsible for them falling. This insurance will offer 20 thousand Chinese yuan for legal costs for a premium of 3 Chinese yuan per year.

The good news is that 50,000 people bought this insurance in only 5 days, which means many people are now ready to help the elderly if they fall in the street.

The sad part is, many people are still concerned, posting comments such as: "the 20,000 yuan is only for the legal costs, but if you lose the case, then you will still have to pay compensation to the accuser in excess of the legal fees."

It is obvious that there is no way you can insure for a moral loss.

The event that triggered this was on 5th of September 2007. A young man, Mr. Peng Yu, saw a lady fall when she got off a bus and helped her up, and also took her to hospital where he paid for her initial treatment, because in China, hospitals will commence treatment only if patients pay the fee. But the lady complained that it was Mr. Peng who caused her to fall, and Peng should be responsible to pay all hospital bills and future living and care costs for the rest of her life.

Peng was a manager in a company and had to resign to focus on his court case. He lost in the end and was required to pay nearly 50.000 yuan to the lady. The Judge said: "If you did not cause her to fall, why did you help her and take her to hospital, and even help with her hospital costs? You were obviously guilty for what you did. A normal person would not behave as you did. Your actions can only be logically explained by the fact that you felt guilty."

A witness, Mr. Cheng was also at the scene when the lady fell, and tried to help Mr. Peng to prove his innocence, but the court and the police did not accept his statements.

Chinese bloggers were utterly dismayed. But when media revealed that one of the sons of this lady worked in the police department, every Chinese understood that Peng Yu was set to fail his case from the start.

The lady whose son is a policeman, accused Peng Yu of pushing her over.  (screenshot)

From then on, even Western companies that have offices in China have told their employees to: "Not help any person on the street on any occasion".

The situation escalated quickly after Peng's case with more cases with almost exactly the same scenario, being put before the courts. This resulted in elderly people who fall in the street, being left for hours without help. In one case an elderly man fell, and kept repeating to everyone standing around him: "please help me up, I declare that I fell myself, no one pushed me!" But it still took a while before one bystander finally helped him!

Two more cases this year:

On Febuary 2015, an old man in Zejiang province, fell in the middle of street, and according to CCTV footage, 8 minutes after the old man had fallen, 23 people had walked past without helping him.

One driver stopped his car, and walked closer to look at the old man, and then left, untill minutes later, a car came out of the lane way and ran over the old man causing his death.

On 2nd August 2015, Mr. Xiong and his 10 year old son were riding their bike home at about 8 o'clock in the evening when they knocked down two elderly people in the street due to the darkness.

Mr. Xiong and his son were also thrown from their bike and the boy was about to check and help the old people up from the ground, but his father told him to come away. When they arrived in their home village, they heard that Xiong's mother and a neighbour were involved in a accident with one dead, one injured. Xiong quickly went back to the spot where he knocked the two persons down, and found that the person who died was his mother!

Will this insurance solve such moral problems in China?