When I told the story of my car accident here, there were different voices. Needless to say, making a report to the police is the most favorable. But sometimes what you know about the legal system or the Chinese society is not the same as you would have believed. And this happened to my friend Mike:
Hello. I’m Mike, an educator and a manager of educators in China for the past 6+ years. It’s been a rewarding experience, one that has allowed me to learn much about Chinese culture, particularly the national language Mandarin. Chi kui is a Mandarin phrase that means “to eat a loss.” And Chi ya ba kui, literally means “to eat a mute person’s loss,” or to suffer losses or grievances in silence. I found myself with a new appreciation for this phrase recently, when as a cyclist I was involved in a traffic accident in which the other party ran a red light and collided with me, giving me a concussion and a shoulder injury—and I wound up having to pay him. If this sounds unbelievable or insane to you, then you can imagine how I feel.
For the past 3.5 years, I have been living and working in Kunshan, a city just outside of Shanghai, China. Last October, I rode a shared bike to work as usual. When I approached a green light at an intersection, I saw several jaywalkers crossing from the left side of the road to the right side of the road. Just as I was about to pass safely in front of them, one of the jaywalkers broke into a run, charging into my left side. His head slammed into my left shoulder and knocked me over, hard. My right shoulder slammed into the pavement hardest. My right hip also hit hard, and my head (despite not hitting the ground) was jolted badly enough to leave me with a mild concussion. Amidst shock and adrenaline, I didn’t take note of any pain or injury. The person who tackled me, an older fellow, was sitting on the pavement looking bewildered. In frustration, I yelled at him for his carelessness before getting back on my bike.
Upon arriving, I mentioned the situation to coworkers. My bosses advised me that I must report the accident. We went to the police station. The older fellow had already made a report and had gone to the hospital for a thorough examination. It was later determined that he had broken a bone in his thumb, and this broken bone would require surgery to repair.
Fortunately, the police were able to obtain video footage of the accident from traffic cameras. This footage confirmed that the accident occurred exactly as I remembered—he was jaywalking, he unexpectedly started running (to catch a bus), and he slammed into me. Unfortunately for me, none of this matters—the legal system favors him. He is older, I am younger. He is a pedestrian, I had a vehicle (even if only a bicycle). His injuries required expensive medical care, mine required time and rest. He is uninsured and has no income, I am apparently rich (or at least that’s the perception of foreigners). His financial damages included the cost of his surgery, his other medical costs, estimated future medical costs, and wages lost from his part-time job. The portion of these damages which I ultimately had to pay amounted to 23,000 RMB, roughly $3300 USD.
The whole episode felt like a descent into madness. My side of the story mostly fell on deaf ears. I was eventually advised to stop telling it. What if I just stayed quiet, humble, and contrite (although there was nothing to be contrite about)?
Now that it’s over, I am sharing my story to boost awareness among expats. In any case, if some good comes out of this, one way or another, I’ll feel better about the whole situation. Perhaps I’ll ultimately have to chi kui, to eat the loss. I can live with that. But I don’t want to chi ya ba kui, to suffer the loss in silence. Nor should anyone. If you agree, please share.
Mike’s story made me wonder, why do the innocent suffer?
About Heather Cai:
Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently living in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.
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