Chongqing Brothers Risk Prison for Ailing Mother

On her blog Inside-Out China, Xujun Eberlein reposts an article she wrote for New American Media about two brothers in Chongqing who held a woman hostage in an effort to get money to pay their mother’s medical expenses:

On Aug. 27, the criminal trial of two migrant worker brothers in Guangzhou, China, drew unusual media attention. A prosecutor alleged that the two brothers from Chongqing kidnapped a white-collar woman from a busy street on April 21. The Zhang brothers pleaded guilty, but said they only wanted to raise money to save their sick mother and had no intention of hurting the victim. The brothers’ filial devotion attracted sympathy from many Chinese, including lawyers. Working pro-bono, three lawyers from Chongqing presented the Zhang brothers’ defense.

[…] Filial devotion is considered one of the most important virtues in Chinese society. Throughout history, many emperors have promoted and practiced the tradition of “governing the world by the filial piety.”

This case provoked a heated discussion on the Internet as to whether the brothers’ filial devotion should reduce their sentence. While there is a consensus that the brothers have committed a crime, some law experts say the punishment should take into consideration their motivation as well as their social and family background, while others consider kidnapping in a public place a very odious crime that deserves heavy punishment. Still others point out that the case reflects serious problems in China’s health care system and welfare system.

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