Renren in the “my dad is Li Gang” incident fuss

| November 20th, 2010

20101120-ligang-01

(In Chongqing, an art work named “Car accident is more fierce than the South China Tiger, my dad is Li Gang” appeared on the Foreigner Street in Nanan District. )

On an October night in Hebei University in northern city of Baoding two college girls were struck by a black Volkswagen sedan. The driver, who is a recent college graduate and a Baoding local, tried to escape but was stopped by security guard. Confronting by the guard, he said the line to be the phrase of year 2010 “My dad is Li Gang” who is a deputy police chief.

This case is widely discussed and even received international attention. The international herald tribute reported on Nov 17 this case under the unsurprising title of “China’s Censors Misfire in Abuse-of-Power Case”. It mainly reported how state propaganda machine tried to press the information and how that “is sometimes hamstrung in the age of the Internet”. The power of the Internet, as the report covered, includes blogging, online activists, open discussion and adaptation competition of the famous phrase “My dad is Li Gang”. However one important component was missing and that is Renren, the Chinese social network site.

I have quite a few friends who attends Hebei University and have been closely tracking the development of this incident online reading friends’ status, notes and shared information on Renren besides reading blogs and news reports.

The incident occurred around 9:00 pm Oct. 16 and a short while later photos of the scene were already uploaded online. The first album I found was uploaded at 11:00 at night. You can see the comment section, the replies didn’t even know this happened.

1._first_report

Albums and journals flooded my Renren news feed section. They were mainly about what had happened with basic description and few discussion. As time passed by more and more details were revealed and these details were often contradictory to each other. With these information the incident turned into two versions. In the first one the driver did not care about the victim but complained his car damage, then he sped away and warned the security guard his father’s name when stopped. In the second one, the driver drove away to avoid being beaten by students, and mentioned his father’s name to seek help from one of the guards who personally know him and his father. The first version was such a perfect portrait of a typical “second generation powerful” and the other version just showed a scared driver after a car accident. No one can be sure which version was real, maybe the reality was what they combined. But at least Renren had provided fast and detailed information with different perspectives which other media could not provide.

driver's_sister

Renren not only helped revealing information but also promoted heated discussion. Every journals revealing different details would be followed by comments and accusations. The topic moved from revealing new information to Hebei University’s image, the “second generation powerful” issue, netizens’ conscious or unconscious biased accusation and the media’s lack of action in reporting the incident.

In this incident Renren at first helped reveal and spread the information in a very short amount of time. Before the propaganda machine was able to know and examine the incident it has already spread across the community. Then people on Renren posted their own versions of the incident which made it impossible to know exactly what happened but there being various versions is much better than there being only the media’s version. Renren also promoted discussion of related issues. Although this discussion may seem messy with foul language and personal attacks appearing now and then, they are undoubtedly precious. Some of the discussion touched on the moral question of whether to be sympathetic with the one who caused the incident, some revealed more problems of the university’s administration and some pointed out the limitations of media. This is what China need, a platform of information and communication, a tool that help people refining their mind and judgment.

Finally I think although Renren has provided a good platform it is still the user who really determine what he/she will get out of it. Renren, as well as many other social network sites, as well as our developing technology can help us know more and think better only if we keep an open mind. They can also reinforce our existing mindset if we only use them to get and defend what we prefer to know.

38 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. Alex says:

    So how exactly is this case going? Is he in jail, is he free, or what?

    • golf trolley says:

      as to your concern, he is not in jail. The court judged him to be under suspension for 3 years, which is to executing sentence out of the jail. If you know the situation in China, you must understand that punishment means nothing. And, yes, maybe his sister’s words are partly or even mostly true. But the fact and result is that he is a drunk when driving, and he has made such a tragedy. I am not a cynicism, all I want is that everyone should responsible for their did.
      And, to tell the truth, I believe that a man grown in a wealthy environment must be more noble, because he owns more and knows more.

  2. Curren$y says:

    I hope he gets executed and I hope
    His father resigns

    • FD says:

      Are you stupid? Why should the father resign?

      We don’t typically punish people for the stupidity of their offspring. So unless there is proof of wrongdoing by the father himself, lay off.

      • Curren$y says:

        You are absolutely correct that punishing one’s parent for the crimes of the offspring is completely illogical. What you seemed to overlook is that the word resign means to quit voluntarily, not a forced termination as your previous rebuttal implied. I hope Li Gang will resign out of shame and principle. I forsee you will challenge my use of the term principle, so let me answer it right here: Li Gang is a police chief and a civil servant, as a member of the governing, how can he keep his job knowing that his own son had severly transgressed the law and harmed the governed. While the law does not say Li Gang has to resign, out of good principle, he definitely should, if he wants to earn any goodwill from the people.
        You seem to be heavily invested in this issue, as shown by your insults, can I ask if you have a personal stake in this issue?

        • FD says:

          > can I ask if you have a personal stake in this issue?

          Yes you may ask; no I don’t.

          When you said “I hope his father resigns,” I read that as a call to put pressure on him to resign. While it is not a formal punishment, it is one form of public condemnation which I don’t think is deserved in this case.

          You’re right that he needs to do *something* to appease the public. If not because of the irresponsible actions of his son, then because of the statements after (my dad is Li Gang) which threw him into the public line of fire.

          I think pressuring him to resign is harsh. I see nothing that indicates he has done anything wrong as a civil servant, and it doesn’t make sense for society to push out capable workers for being crappy parents.

          In my books, Li Gang will have fulfilled his duty if he:
          1) Does not say anything that can be construed as protecting his son
          2) Declares himself conflicted and take positive action to ensure he does not have any way to influence the case
          3) Part of ensuring his conflict of interest does not affect the case should be a public statement that he will not get involved with the case, and a (possibly public) request that an entirely different and independent department handles the case. His friends in the same department should be considered conflicted.

          Goodwill from the public is important, but I believe we go to far by calling for his resignation when his only involvement is completely indirect. His son is 22 years old; he should be held solely responsible for his actions.

  3. kate545 says:

    Wasn’t the original story that he drove off but came back through later and was stopped then?

  4. viktor says:

    #1: According to Wall Street Journal, Li Gang payed about 500,000 renminbi to the deceased girl’s family, in order for them to drop the case..

    It seems as if Li Qiming (the driver) will walk away without any harsh sentence: http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2010/11/18/cop-coughs-up-69000-for-sons-victim/

    • Dan says:

      Ah, sounds about right, just another benefit of living in China and being a guan er dai. The TV spots where both the father and son were crying were fake and done to calm the public down. Any result other than payment and a light punishment would be surprising.

      • 2B-real says:

        If you had insurance in some states you wont see 1 day unless you were drunk, then they would issue a DUI, some jail time less than a year AA for less than a year and another hefty fine. Rich people don’t even need insurance because they are considered financially responsible. This is most states not all.

        This guy got off on the right foot.

        • bb says:

          “in some states”

          in “other states”, such as my home you certainly wouldn’t walk away so easily. Speaking from experience, my uncle was charged with vehicular manslaughter about 10 years ago, sober as a whistle he flew through an stop sign on a country road and pummelled a mother driving the other way… He served 18months in jail, bankrupted his entire farm and estate in paying punitive damages to the deceased family.

          I don’t know about all states, but the states I’ve lived in, legally you CAN’T own or drive a vehicle without minimum insurance. When you’re pulled over, the police officer asks “license, registration, proof of insurance please.”

    • lay low moe says:

      money could buy you anything in China

      • diaohua says:

        except for a good western meal. zinger!

      • FD says:

        Yeah, because we don’t have civil settlements in The Land of The Free. Think about it. If the settlement is the same as what would be awarded by the court anyways, there’s nothing wrong with this.

        Are you saying you would rather they fight the suit and refuse to settle? That’s what would happen if the 500,000 wasn’t paid, and then you’d be bitching about that.

        • S.K. Cheung says:

          You should really argue against what I write, rather than what you hoped I had written.

          This is what I wrote: “…to settle a potential wrongful death civil case in order to also make the possible criminal prosecution go away”. So no, there’s nothing wrong with a civil settlement out of court. But there is something wrong with a system whereby a civil settlement gets you off the hook from criminal prosecution as well. I’m not sure if that happens regularly in The Home of the Brave. Hope that clears up my point for you.

          • FD says:

            Ok, but I was not responding to your post.

            I was talking about payment to the deceased family. Bribes made to make the criminal case go away are an entirely different matter altogether.

        • lay low moe says:

          i dont know how China works
          but for US ,Canada, & UK
          the kid would probably have life sentence, and pay compensation + plaintiff’s legal fee

          • 2B-real says:

            nope not true

            • lay low moe says:

              how do you think he would end up if he was in western countries?

              • 2B-real says:

                as I stated above depending on the state it happened in the law may vary. If he had insurance he and was sober at the time of the accident then in the even of of death he would lose his privileges to drive pay a hefty fine and the insurance handles the rest of the financial liabilities to the family of the dead. But if he was drunk and then the rules get tricky to certain circumstances that I cannot explain. Sometimes I hear about people only going to jail to sober up and then the court issues AA meeting for less than a year plus all the other shit.

                But if he was drunk and had no insurance he is on the mercy of the court. He is then bumped up to felony vehicular manslaughter, financially irresponsible, DUI. He gets to spend up to I think 5 years in prison plus the hefty fine, skip AA license revoked plus some other shit. If he was in a crowded prison system state like California he would be on house arrest for some time because its not considered a violent crime. If you like to check it out just look it up I guess or google it. Assuming you are not from the states or Canada for that matter and you don’t party or dont have any friends that party as hard and drive drunk and got busted you wouldn’t really know what you are talking about.

                Regardless of what country you are in drunk drivers do get off easier than you think.

                • bb says:

                  If he’s not drunk, it still comes down to a matter of negligence. Did some lady just step out in front of him as he was coming to a stop at red light and an unlucky bump caused her brain to start bleeding….or was he being an asshole twat and flying over the speed limit, music blaring, and engines revving as he plows through a red light into a mother pushing a stroller in a crosswalk….

                  always situational and a matter of negligence, drunk driving obviously puts him in the category of a negligent driver.

        • jh says:

          This looks less like a cash settlement in the U.S. when you realize the girl’s parents are now being kept incommunicado. To the best of my knowledge, we don’t have their confirmation that the money was even paid. But suppose it was; were they permitted the option of refusing it, and filing suit? Or were they told to shut up and forget their child, take a particular sum of money, and not bother the government about it? That’s what was done with the parents of the children who died when all the shoddily constructed schools collapsed in an earthquake. They were offered money, and if they persisted in demanding more information and accountability about the politically-connected contractors who put up the schools, they were either harassed, put under house arrest or taken to prison.

    • S.K. Cheung says:

      Ahhh, paying money to settle a potential wrongful death civil case in order to also make the possible criminal prosecution go away. You’ve got to love the CCP “justice” system. It’s also amusing to watch the CCP try yet fail to control an embarrassing story that resonates with the common folk…hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

    • jh says:

      Does this remind anybody else of Joren Van der Sloot, the kid in Aruba who killed the American girl Natalie Holloway? He avoided prosecution for years, until he killed another girl in Peru.

  5. Peter says:

    Just another reminder… that you really can’t be sure of anything you read on the internet… Anyone could be lying… there needs to be an investigation!

  6. lay low moe says:

    eventually China will censor RenRen
    because its people won’t keep their mouth shut

  7. disagree says:

    this is just shameless agitprop for renren. the alternative story is laughable. the question here is – why is CHINAHUSH fronting as a renren marketing campaign?

  8. Badboy says:

    What I want to know is how can gossip and heresay on RenRen or any other media be different than the ‘official story’ that it is said to counter?

    We know that ‘eye witnesses’ will probably be traumatized and outraged and will write what they ‘feel’ happened. Implications of ‘bias’ against ‘privileged members of society’ will be a common response hence the attention to detail about the quote will be high.

    Soon afterward, the regular censors and 5 Mao bloggers will be online sowing seeds of doubt to dilute the story (if in fact it requires dilution).

    So I wonder how Renren has any more relevant detail to add…apart from the ‘feelings’ of individuals playing in the realm of conspiracy theories.

  9. Mark says:

    I knew the son would get off when the father appeared on T.V. and pretended to throw his brat son under the bus.

    In a society with real laws and a strong civil society, although the parent would be sorry about the victims the main concern of the parent would be protecting the rights of their children as they went through the criminal justice system, and making sure their kid did not get overly harsh punishment if any punishment.

    In the U.S.A. state drunk driving laws are so harsh there is no way you could run over two people while driving drunk and not face very stiff penalties including jail time. Chances are good you would face a murder charge such as negligent homicide or even murder 2 if you are a repeat offender.

    • keius says:

      Not always true. Like China, it really helps to know people and have influence. Take the case of Ray Lewis, NFL linebacker. In 2000, drunk and driving,…vehicular manslaughter..2 charges of 1st degree murder…obstruction of justice….the undisclosed big payoff…charges dropped…big star once again…

      Big surprise? No. The US has it’s own system of corruption. It’s just not as obvious or ubiquitous as China’s.

  10. Voice of China says:

    Mark, you continue to entertain me with your stupidity.

    In a society with real laws and a strong civil society

    Whatever pretense you are trying to use the word ‘civil’, it doesn’t fit in place with criminal liability. Stating something is ‘real law’ as opposed to ‘false law’ also doesn’t really support your argument.

    I see you have some qualm with the shortfall of China’s legal system however you don’t seem to be able to express yourself very well. And no, I’m not going to help you.

    In the U.S.A. state drunk driving laws are so harsh there is no way you could run over two people while driving drunk and not face very stiff penalties including jail time.

    This seems rather inconsistent with your previous statement that parents would be hopeful that their son/daughter would get punished at all. If state drunk driving laws are that strict, then why the false optimism?

    Chances are good you would face a murder charge such as negligent homicide or even murder 2 if you are a repeat offender.

    Homicide encompasses murder and manslaughter. However, murder requires the intent to harm. Unfortunately, I doubt this is the case here.

  11. Jolie Lee says:

    Hi Key,

    I’m a journalism graduate student at American University in AU and working on a report about the Li Gang Incident. Specifically, how do citizens use online tools — like blogs or social networks — to discuss stories not fully reported in the media?

    I’d love to hear more about your insights on this topic! Are you in the U.S. now? Maybe we could do a phone call (10 minutes)? Or if you’re out of the country, perhaps we can chat by e-mail or skype?

    My e-mail is leejolie@gmail.com.

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