In April a BMW racing through a fruit market in Foshan in China’s Guangdong province knocked down a 2-year-old girl and rolled over her head. As the girl’s grandmother shouted, “Stop! You’ve hit a child!” the BMW’s driver paused, then switched into reverse and backed up over the girl. The woman at the wheel drove forward once more, crushing the girl for a third time. When she finally got out from the BMW, the unlicensed driver immediately offered the horrified family a deal: “Don’t say that I was driving the car,” she said. “Say it was my husband. We can give you money.”
It seems like a crazy urban legend: In China, drivers who have injured pedestrians will sometimes then try to kill them. And yet not only is it true, it’s fairly common; security cameras have regularly captured drivers driving back and forth on top of victims to make sure that they are dead. The Chinese language even has an adage for the phenomenon: “It is better to hit to kill than to hit and injure.”
He explained…If you cripple a man, you pay for the injured person’s care for a lifetime. But if you kill the person, you only have to pay once, like a burial fee
This 2008 television report features security camera footage of a dusty white Passat reversing at high speed and smashing into a 64-year-old grandmother. The Passat’s back wheels bounce up over her head and body. The driver, Zhao Xiao Cheng, stops the car for a moment then hits the gas, causing his front wheels to roll over the woman. Then Zhao shifts into drive, wheels grinding the woman into the pavement. Zhao is not done. Twice more he shifts back and forth between drive and reverse, each time thudding over the grandmother’s body. He then speeds away from her corpse.
Incredibly, Zhao was found not guilty of intentional homicide. Accepting Zhao’s claim that he thought he was driving over a trash bag, the court of Taizhou in Zhejiang province sentenced him to just three years in prison for “negligence.” Zhao’s case was unusual only in that it was caught on video. As the television anchor noted, “You can see online an endless stream of stories talking about cases similar to this one.”
“Double-hit cases” have been around for decades. I first heard of the “hit-to-kill” phenomenon in Taiwan in the mid-1990s when I was working there as an English teacher. A fellow teacher would drive us to classes. After one near-miss of a motorcyclist, he said, “If I hit someone, I’ll hit him again and make sure he’s dead.” Enjoying my shock, he explained that in Taiwan, if you cripple a man, you pay for the injured person’s care for a lifetime. But if you kill the person, you “only have to pay once, like a burial fee.” He insisted he was serious—and that this was common.