Friday, May 20, 2011

The Shanghai Incident

Here is a copy of Aaron's blog post on the "Shanghai Incident." I've added a few comments in italics. And I've learned my lesson.  Really, if someone in China falls down in front of you, throw them a few hundred RMB and walk away.  WALK AWAY!
  Today I managed to survive the worst ordeal I have ever been in. I learned never under any circumstances to stop and help anyone in China.
My wife and I were taking her cousins to the Airport in Shanghai so they could return home to Japan. We had left the hotel about 10:45am and were entering the subway. We had already bought our tickets and were turning to go down the stairs to the train. My wife’s cousin was pushing her kid in a stroller, and she crossed paths with an old Chinese woman. The woman fell down and didn’t move. I actually saw her foot connect with Ellie's stroller, so I knew that I had done something.  Aaron and Crystal had kind of tongue-in-cheek warned us about scams that people try to pull by falling down in front of you and then blaming you and trying to extort money off of you. My wife told us not to touch her, and that we needed to leave. My wife’s cousins looked like we were heartless, and tried to help the lady. I don't really think either of them were heartless, I just felt like I HAD to do something because I really believed that I had contributed to the accident. From my wife’s point of view, neither the old Chinese woman nor her cousin was paying attention. The old woman’s husband was way up ahead of his wife, and came back when he noticed she wasn’t beside him. He said that we were driving our cart too fast and that we ran his wife over. How the devil was he supposed to know! He was about 20 yards in front of his wife! They called security, and eventually the police came. The police said that we had to go to the hospital with them to pay the medical bills and make sure the woman was okay. We explained that my wife’s cousins had a flight to catch in 2 hours to Japan, and there was no way they could go to the hospital with the injured woman. They gave us 500 RMB and my wife and I ended up going to the hospital with the old woman and her husband. This was  where we exited the scene, feeling incredibly guilty, and sick to our stomachs.  I've never had a more nauseating trip in a taxi or a plane.  Both Ben and I physically felt ill until we talked to Crystal and Aaron the next day.
While we were at the train station, the police never filled out an incident report. It seemed like they were blaming my wife’s cousin for everything. I tried explaining what happened, but the old man yelled over me, and they would not be convinced. They had no proof one way or the other as to who was at fault. We also told the police that we didn’t know my wife’s cousins. We were afraid that they would miss their flight, so we said we were witnesses and would stay and help.  After agreeing to what we said, the police let my wife’s cousins go, and we were supposed to stay and help in their place.
            My wife and I rode in the ambulance with the couple to the hospital. We ended up paying 750RMB to cover her bills.  When we arrived the old woman was put on a gurney and pushed upstairs to X-ray. The doctors took two x-rays of her chest, and one of her pelvis. This whole time she was not willing to move. While I was downstairs paying the x-ray bill, my wife saw a doctor come and move the woman’s lets up to her chest to see if she was okay. The doctor said that she was fine and didn’t know what the problem was. When I came back up stairs, I found out that we were still waiting for results of the x-ray. It was about 12:15 by this time.
I asked the doctor why we had to wait so long for the x-rays. He said that the doctor who looks at the x-rays and fills out the report was busy. I asked him if the doctor was eating lunch. The  doctor I was speaking with looked a little embarrassed, and then said that the other doctor was resting, and then assured us we could get our results at 2. (In China they have this thing were everyone has to rest from 12:00 to 2:00) I said no way! That was unacceptable. We came in the emergency room and we wanted results now. He told me to wait a minute and then went back behind a door. After about 10 minutes of him not coming back, I followed him into the door.
When I opened the door, I was shocked to find that there were 4 or 5 doctors sitting around a table playing poker. This is where I lost it. I started yelling at them saying that there was an injured woman out in the hall, we were waiting for the x-ray results so that they could sit in here and play poker!?!? What kind of hospital is this?!? Immediately all of the doctors stood up and got upset. They said that the person I was looking for was across the hall. I went to the other room and then the doctors started yelling at each other. Apparently, the head doctor really wanted his nap. Anyway, we got the results 5 minutes later then went down to see another doctor.
When we got downstairs the old woman was sitting in a chair. The doctor was holding her x-rays up to the light and staring at them, not using those bright white boards that you see in normal hospitals. He said that he couldn’t know for sure if her ribs were broken or not. I asked if it is because they took a bad x-ray or what. He said that we would have to come back in 30 days to take another x-ray to make sure nothing was broken. (I think he was just over prescribing so he can make more money, which happens often here.) I went with the old man to the pharmacy to buy a brace for the woman’s arm. While I was paying the bill, the old man told the woman behind the counter that I was driving my cart to fast and plowed his wife over. The cashier looked at me like I was a puppy killer. It was an accident, and I was just the witness.
The doctor said that the woman had to come back in 30 days for another x-ray to make sure she was okay. I told the old man that it was his wife’s fault just as much as the other woman’s. I explained that we paid today, and he would have to pay the next visit. We were going. He called the police on us. After the police showed up we realized what he had done. My wife lost it at this point and started yelling at them. How could they call the police on us? We didn’t do anything. We stayed to help and now they are treating us like criminals? We ended up getting into a big yelling match with the family. The old woman’s daughter had shown up and kept saying “tao yan”, which means “disgusting, disagreeable or repugnant”. She also said that our kind acts were turning into trouble because now we had to fix this problem.
The police escorted all of us back to the train station where the original police officer was. We all got taken to the police station at the train station and were there for about an hour. They said that we had to give the other party more money so we could settle the matter. By this time, the old couple’s daughter and grandson were there too. They were demanding that we pay 5000 RMB in compensation ($750 USD).
We ended up calling the American Consulate. We spoke with 3 different people who told us to leave. We tried leaving after speaking with the first guy but the police still wouldn’t let us leave. Finally, the third woman negotiated with the police officer. He said that he didn’t have the right to detain us. It was a civil matter and had nothing to do with the police. He was just afraid that if he let us go, the family would chase after us and try and hurt us. He was also afraid that if we left the family would give problems to the police. Eventually we left, and the family did chase us. The old man came up and pushed me and ended up scratching my hand. We didn’t want to fight anyone so we ran out of the subway station and got into a taxi and left.
The woman was probably hurt a little, but it seemed like she was milking the situation, especially because she was walking around and came back to the subway station with us after we left the hospital. We ended up spending about 4 hours to deal with this situation. It was the worst thing we have ever had to deal with in China. The police were of no help at all. They were telling us to just pay money. The only thing that the police did was act as a negotiator between us.  We originally offered to give a little extra money for the next visit’s x-rays, but they wouldn’t take it. They wanted more. So we told them that we weren’t going to give them anything else, and if they wanted more they would have to sue us in court, and we would counter sue them if they took us to court. 

Aaron King


  1. mental note to self, if ever visiting shanghai get a baby carrier, don't bring a stroller.