Chinese man who assaulted bus driver loses appeal against three-year prison sentence

  • Recent assaults on bus crews and 15 deaths in Chongqing caused by a passenger fighting with a driver put violence firmly in spotlight
  • Man who attacked driver at wheel of Sanya bus protested that his sentence was harsh and claimed his infraction was minor
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 6:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2018, 7:26pm

A court in Sanya has upheld a three-year prison sentence for a 62-year-old man who kicked a bus driver during a dispute in the city on southern Hainan Island, Sanya Daily reported on Saturday.

The assault, which took place on January 25 this year, caused the bus to swerve and hit a roadside railing in the southern seaside resort city. None of the dozen passengers was hurt.

The man surnamed Zhang, originally from Heilongjiang province in northeast China, had got into an argument with the driver after he had problems paying the fare, the court heard.

According to surveillance camera footage on the bus, Zhang eventually sat down, then suddenly got up again and kicked the driver on the arm while the vehicle was moving. Several passengers fell to the floor as the bus swerved.

The first court hearing found that he had assaulted the bus driver, risking the safety of the bus and passengers. It is not clear when the first hearing took place.

Although his actions did not result in more serious consequences, the court said that it was enough to be a risk to public safety and sentenced him to three years in prison. Zhang appealed against the sentence for being too harsh, arguing that the crime was relatively minor and did not cause serious harm.

Fresh passenger attacks on Chinese bus drivers highlight scale of problem after fatal Yangtze crash

Zhang told the Sanya Intermediate People’s Court that he was drunk on that occasion, and vented his anger without thinking of the effect of his actions on public safety. But the court decided to uphold the original sentence because his actions jeopardised public safety, and announced the verdict of the appeal on August 25.

The verdict, like the incident before it, went largely unnoticed and unreported but has sprang to media prominence in the aftermath of a fatal bus crash in Chongqing and the hue and cry in China about bad behaviour of some passengers.

Watch: how an angry passenger caused a bus crash in China

The Chongqing bus crash, in which 15 people died after the vehicle swerved and plunged into the Yangtze River from a bridge, was caused by a female passenger assaulting the driver during an argument. Dashcam video recordings showed the driver, while trying to fend off the attacks by the woman, mistakenly entering the wrong lane and then swerving off the bridge to avoid a car travelling in the opposite direction.

The incident shone a spotlight on the frequency of bus disputes that become violent. Mainstream and social media in China have since been flooded with stories and posts on bad behaviour by bus passengers.

“Three years is too short,” read one top-rated comment on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, in response to a report on Zhang’s imprisonment, echoing the mood in China.

At least 20 such attacks have been recorded since the start of this year, with some of them resulting in fatalities.

‘Ban women drivers’: China’s sexism surfaces after bus plunges into river

Last Saturday, a middle-aged woman in Huaibei, Anhui province, was filmed by passengers kicking a bus driver while he was driving. The incident did not result in any harm or cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Local authorities have been stepped up bus safety measures after the Chongqing crash, introducing a number of new fines and punishments for those who attack drivers. The city of Nanjing in eastern Jiangsu province has announced plans to install bandit screens separating the driver and passengers.