I was asked the question in a family gather in the States on July 4 about “what happens if your neighbor gets to your garden and cut your tree?” I answered: “I will jump to their garden and cut their trees, and if I can break their window, that is even better”.
I was kidding, but the bitter reality in China today is, that is maybe the only solution left.
Legal system is designed to protect the common people, but not so true in practice. As I said, I never sued someone in my life, and wasn’t sued, because suing is not that useful, in practice. People solve problems by themselves (some times violently).
My colleague A encountered something similar. Two guys got into our company violently on one weekend. They threatened to destroy the computers, and office equipment. At the emergency, my colleague had to defense and pushed them out of the office by violence – someone got hurt. My colleague then immediately called 110 and the police came.
The police educated A that he should not have done it. When asked what he should do when two strangers get into the office and when there is only one person inside, this is what the police suggested:
You should not force them to leave, even when they are in your office. If they threaten to destroy something, you should let them destroy it. This way they break the law, and then you can call us. But before they destroy anything or beat you, you should NOT do anything.
Although we have all the CCAV record of what happened (how they broke in, and what happened), the police insisted that A pay 500 RMB for the damage he made to the two strangers. After several hours of wasting time, A finally paid the money and get the thing settled.
This is very common. I personally encounter stuff like this many time. The typical thing policemen will tell you is: “Do you want to spend endless time and effort to sue them? The court cannot solve the problem.” or “for small things like this, no court will handle it. Take it easy and let it be.” I recorded one of the even 5 years ago: Goudaner Scratched by Drunk Driver. My car was scratched badly by a drunk driver, and police came, and the driver/passengers left the car. The policeman came and said he could do nothing. I called to complain and I was told that if I insist, I can bring witness to their office to record it. Well. There is no chance for a file to the court without their written confirmation…
So, many years of social experience tend to teach people to protect themselves by themselves. That is maybe the reason many people (I mean my friends!) believed that violence is always a better choice.
BTW, any reader has any experience to sue someone on the court when the damage is less than 100K USD? What was the experience and how it worked out? (Well. Even if the court find the other party is guilty, there is few ways to enforce it.)
When I encounter with the security guard in my residential area, I felt more confident than having the same conflict with the security guard in my office building. Why? Because I know in the first case, I am the owner of the property, but in the second case, I am just a leaser, not an owner. You see the difference? As a leaser, I only have the option to complain to the owner of the building, and if they refuse to take their right to do something with the property management company, my only choice is economical – move out. But if I own something, the right is more political – I have the *right*.
However, to think it deeper, even my own house, I don’t own it. I LEASED it from the country. I am a leaser of my own house. For many people who don’t have their residence permit (several million people live in Shanghai without that resident permit), they can only get a TEMP permit for living in Shanghai. In this case, they don’t have the right too – they are just visitors to this city, no matter how long they live here – 10 years? 20 years? and their children don’t have the residence status of this city. (Refer to this Hukou article).
In both situation, legally speaking, you don’t have any right. You have the right to complain to the landlord of your house, or complain to the city that you are visiting, but that is suggestion based right, not a legal binding right.
In that sense, we are all *leasers* or guest in this country, even after paying one million USD to get an apartment in Shanghai – the apartment still belongs to the government, and you just get a lease contract of 60 years.
There is still hope though. Now we do have a legal system. Although it does not work as well as it was designed, but it is improving. More and more people turn to the legal system for justice, instead of violence.
Zhiyong is one typical example of it, although he himself was officially arrested the other day. He was accused for tax evasion. According to tax law, he is free of penalty if the company pays the tax and fine in full (the tax evasion is about a pending charity donation from Yale University for doing research.)
Many people from around the country donated to pay the 1.42 million RMB fine ticket (well. Think about it. People donate to pay the fine by government!), but the tax department rejected the money because the Legal Representitive of the company, Zhiyong, is not able to go to their office to sign the document. Zhiyong cannot go because he is arrested. He is arrested because he wouldn’t pay the fine. He wouldn’t pay the fine because he is arrested… the loop is intentionally kept there. In that logic, the only way for Zhiyong to solve the infinite loop is to complete his 7 years in jail, and then go to the tax office to pay the fine. At that time, I believe the penalty of delaying the fine (3% per day) would be 100 million.
However, I still keep the hope that as long as there is still a place to talk about the legal system. Just like the dead loop here – it is still legal term and legal process any way. There must be a way out as long as it is still legal talk. In this sense, the country has improved.
Keep the hope.