When the sober are toast

THERE are several unwritten rules one must know when hanging out with friends in China, especially during drinking sessions.

Rule number one – you cannot force your friends to drink, threaten or challenge them to consume alcohol.

And if they get drunk, you have to stop them from driving or take care of them to ensure their safety.

If you fail to do any of the above, you could be held responsible if your drinking buddy ends up in any mishap or even worse dies in a road accident while driving under the influence of alcohol.

A Guangdong man learnt this too late.

He was held responsible by a court for the death of a friend, who took his own life after their drinking session.

According to the court records, the man – identified only as Hong – had dinner with four friends, including one known only as Chen, on May 10,2018.

He did not consume any alcohol as he had to drive but the friends finished up about 1.25 litres of Chinese wine.

After dinner, he offered to drive Chen home on seeing his friend’s condition.

As Chen refused to provide a proper home address, Hong dropped him off at a street near his neighbourhood.

The following morning, Chen was found dead outside a factory with an iron chain coiled around his neck.

Police ruled out foul play.

On May 7,2019, the court ruled that Hong had partial responsibility for Chen’s death and ordered him to pay more than 70,000 yuan (RM43,620) as compensation to the deceased’s family.

Hong, however, felt that he had fulfilled his duty and made an appeal against the court decision.

On Aug 21, the Dongguan No 2 People’s Court which heard the appeal, upheld the decision.

The issue was only brought to the media’s attention last week.

“I sent Chen home out of good faith, but I ended up having a bad return, ” Hong told the local media.

He said the amount set by the court was too high, adding that he could give 20,000 yuan (RM12,400) to Chen’s family on humanitarian grounds.

He said their outing had nothing to do with Chen’s suicide and that the latter would have done so even if he was not drunk.

Hong pointed out that his friend was conscious and waved goodbye to him as he drove off.

Chen’s family said the court decision made sense as Hong did not fulfil his duty to send his friend home.

Instead he left him on a quiet street that had led to his death.

They felt that Chen would still be alive if Hong had contacted the family or sent Chen home safely.

All this while, cases of people being held responsible for their drinking buddies’ misfortunes were occasionally heard by the court.

But in these cases, the victims died in accidents including traffic mishaps or sicknesses triggered by alcohol.

Netizens were baffled with the court’s judgment on Hong, whose news on Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, was read 300 million times and generated over 6,000 discussions.

They argued why someone should be held responsible for another person’s suicide.

Some felt that the court’s decision would discourage people from doing good deeds.

“The friend took his own life, he did not die in an accident. He (Hong) had really bad luck, ” wrote a social media user.

Last month, a cab driver was held responsible for the death of a drunk passenger by the Huangdao District People’s Court in Qingdao, Shandong province.

The taxi driver, surnamed Wu, picked up the passenger outside a restaurant one late evening.

As the passenger, surnamed Liu, was too drunk and could not provide his destination, Wu dragged him out of the vehicle and abandoned him by the roadside.

Liu was found dead an hour later and his cause of death was identified as acute heart attack.

The court judged that the taxi driver had failed in his duty to ensure his passenger’s safety, adding that he could have called the emergency numbers for help if he was unable to handle such a situation.

In Suzhou, the Taichang City People’s Court ordered two men to pay some 55,000 yuan (RM34,150) each to the family of their drinking buddy, known only as Lan, who drowned.

According to surveillance cameras, Lan fell into the river while walking home alone after drinking with the two men at a restaurant in November.

The court said the defendants did not warn or stop Lan from drinking knowing that he was highly intoxicated. They failed to care for the friend.

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