Chinese police drop criminal charges against man who killed his assailant

Police in Kunshan, southeastern China’s Jiangsu province, released a statement on Saturday afternoon, notifying Yu Haiming — who caused death of his assailant in an incident that has recently garnered nationwide attention — to bear no criminal responsibility considering his self-defense act could be justified.

Yu, who’s 41-year-old, seized the machete wielded by his assailant to strike back. After the assailant succumbed to his injuries, Yu was put under detention, possibly facing criminal charges. The case immediately triggered heated debate in China with an overwhelming majority of netizens arguing such brave act should be awarded instead of punished.

It was initially thought that Yu may be found guilty of homicide because courts in China tend to view such actions that cause death or severe physical harm as ‘excessive’ or even intentional. The South China Morning Post cited an article published on, a Chinese news portal, which analyzed 100 court cases involving similar incidents. The article found that only in four cases, the suspect was ruled to have acted in “legitimate self-defense”.

“Based on verified facts and suggestions made by local prosecutors, Yu’s action is identified as lawful self-defense,” the Kunshan police noted in the statement, saying the man would not bear criminal responsibility and the public security authorities have revoked the case based on the facts that Liu Hailong was “committing physical assault or murder” at the time and Yu’s actions were “prompted by his self-defense instincts”.

The statement also cited a provision from China’s criminal law which requires people would not be found guilty for causing death or severe physical harm if his or her assailant is committing violent crimes like homicide, robbery, rape, and kidnapping.

A CCTV clip that has earlier gone viral on Chinese social media records how the incident unfolded. After the BMW driven by Liu Hailong veered into a bike lane and rear-ended the electric bicycle Yu was riding on, two passengers got out of the car and talked to Yu. It was later confirmed by Kunshan police that before the two passengers’ communications with Yu, Liu had confronted Yu, although that part is not shown in the video clip. It’s when the two finished talking and headed back to the car, Liu once again got out of his car and attacked Yu, who basically did not fight back.

Then, police said, Liu returned to his car, took out a machete—a kind of controlled knife, double-edged, 59 cm in total length, 43 cm in blade’s length and 5cm in width—from his car, headed back and began to make successive blows at the unarmed Yu on his neck, waist and legs. Amid the slashing, the weapon accidentally slipped out of Liu’s hand. Yu tried to grab the weapon and then stabbed and slashed his assailant with it multiple times within seven seconds.

A witness later told a local Chinese media that Liu finally fell down on the roadside, crying for “help”, while Yu held tightly on to the machete until police arrived.

Before local police and prosecutors investigated the incident, the widely circulated video clip and follow-up media reports seemed convincing enough for Chinese netizens to believe Liu, the BMW driver, deserves what happened to him considering he was the one who picked up the fight and the weapon that took away his life was also first taken out and used by him.

Soon after the viral video clip, Chinese media sources dug deeper into the two men’s backgrounds and revealed more facts which all supported Yu. Liu Hailong, the 36-year-old assailant, was a habitual criminal, who had spent nine years and a half in prison for theft, holding people to ransom, and assault. On the contrary, Yu was proven by his employers, co-workers and friends to be a hard-working and nice person.

Actually, before local police in Kunshan announced to drop all criminal charges against Yu, many legal experts surveyed by the Chinese media had taken the side of netizens, analyzing the 41-year-old’s actions should be justified as self-defense.

Ruan Qilin, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, told Red Star News, a Chengdu-based Chinese media, there was little chance for Yu to face severe penalty, considering that “since the ‘Yu Huan case’, the acceptable limits of lawful self-defense had gradually become consistent with the general public’s feelings and judgement.”

The “Yu Huan case” is generally regarded as the legal precedent in China to allow people more freedom in fighting back his or her assailant.

In April 2016, female entrepreneur Su Yinxia was found to have been intimidated, beaten up and sexually harassed in front of her son Yu Huan by a dozen debt collectors. After being illegally confined for hours and threatened by the gang with no help from police, Yu took a fruit knife and stabbed one man to death, leaving two severely wounded.

At the beginning of 2017, a medium court in eastern China’s Shandong province gave Yu life sentence in the first-instance trial. The Southern Weekly, a Chinese magazine, covered the case, coming up with a feature story titled “Killing the man who humiliated my mother”. The article was widely circulated, attracting public indignation toward such a lengthy prison sentence to a 22-year-old who intended to save his mother.

One year later, in the trial of second instance, Yu was given five years’ sentence by a higher court, with the judge, Wu Jing, saying the ruling had taken into consideration national laws, justice and human feelings.

The ‘Yu Huan case’ was included in the top 10 cases in 2018 that had pushed the modernization of China’s legal institution.

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