Sunday, September 27, 2009

Follow Up: Two Brothers Sentenced for Kidnapping that Saved Mother

A few weeks ago, I wrote "Chongqing Brothers Risk Prison for Ailing Mother." I have kept a close eye on the case's developments. Today Gunagzhou's Baiyun District Court sentenced the older brother to 5.5 years, and the younger brother to two years with a three-year delay in incarceration.

The terms are pretty much in tune with what the defense lawyers had outlined, so there is no real surprise here. The sentencing is on the light end for kidnapping in China, apparently because the Zhang brothers' filial motive and their mother's predicament have attracted sympathy from even the judge and the prosecutor. However, this was still too much for the mother, who cried hard after the sentencing.

Mother and younger son walking out of court (source: Guangzhou Daily)

A few unusual humanistic measures were taken by the court. Two days before the sentencing, the judge made an appointment to meet the heartbroken mother who had made the trip with the financial support from Guangzhou people's donations. The poor peasant mother, who had never traveled beyond her hometown in her life, reportedly twice kneeled down before the judge to beg leniency for her sons. On the day of the sentencing, the court arranged medical and emergency services especially prepared for the mother. After the sentencing, the court provided psychological consultation for both the mother and her sons, something I've never heard of before.

This is big progress, while it also reflects the Chinese society's value judgment that weighs heavily toward filial devotion. It would be hard to imagine, for example, that a Chinese court would take similar humanistic measures for a political prisoner.

This case has also presented a moral dilemma to the local government. It was reported that, after the news of the Zhang brothers' crime and motive spread, their hometown government had planned a large fund-raising activity in order to help the poor family. However, the concern that such a publicized supportive action would encourage others to replicate the crime prevailed, and the fund-raising effort was canceled.

I need to correct one thing in my previous report, where I said "Apparently the Zhang brothers and their mother have not participated in such a [medical] co-op." According to this report, the Zhang brothers' family did join the medical co-op. However, this co-op would reimburse only about 2000 yuan for the mother's expense in the town hospital where she was initially admitted. As a matter of fact, that local hospital did not have the means to treat her illness and she was later transferred to a better hospital in the county. Her actual medical bill in the county hospital went over 40,000 yuan, most of which would not have been covered by the rural medical co-op program. Moreover, the common practice of hospitals is "pay first, then treatment." Without the generous donations from all over the country that have exceeded 50,000 yuan in total, the poor mother would have not received the treatment she had. As such, China's rural health care remains inadequate.

No comments: