Right of Self-Defense in China – Law and Social Conventions

  • School bullying leads to three injured.
  • Chinese government passes new law on self-defense.
  • The judge put himself in Jiang’s shoes, imagining what he would have done.

After 11 months of suspension, 16-year-old student Jiang is going to a school in Shaodong to continue his studies on September 3. He is also a released suspect under investigation. It all began with an intentional aggression.

On May 17, 2019, at the Jishou No.2 High School, 15 students beat Jiang up in the bathroom. During the chaos, Jiang took out a knife and stabbed three of them. One was mildly injured while the other two were gravely hurt. Jiang got arrested on August 7 on charges of intentional aggression.

The school and the bathroom where it all happened.

On July 6, 2020, Jishou People’s Court sentenced Jiang not guilty because it constituted self-defense while being bullied at school. Later, Jishou People’s Procuratorate filed a protest to Xiangxi Intermediate People’s Court. The procuratorate considers the fight a “1 verus 15 duel” which shouldn’t be qualified as a self-defense. Now, Jiang is waiting for his second trial.

This is the first case to go viral after the Chinese government announced a new explanation on the right of self-defense on September 3. The new regulations intend to avoid the old “who’s more injured gets more justification” rules. Based on the details of the case, internet users are obviously on Jiang’s side.

According to the sentence documents, it started with a student, Hu, asking Jiang to buy him a pack of cigarette as an apology for speaking to his girlfriend before. Jiang bought him one. But Hu thought it was a cheap pack, so he didn’t take it. Later, another student, Sun, had an argument with Jiang about something trivial. On the day of the incident, Sun found Hu and gathered more friends to give Jiang a lesson. The procuratorate thinks it’s a “duel” because the whole story happened inside a school, Jiang could have asked the teachers for help. Also, they claim that while in the bathroom, Jiang provoked them by asking “which one of you first?” The fact that Jiang hid a knife also suggested that it was more of a fight than a defense.

The court sentenced Jiang not guilty.

On Weibo, people mock officials in the procuratorate as thinking they are Ye Wen, the teacher of Bruce Lee, who fought a group of people. Nothing Jiang did could change the fact that he was being bullied at a new school. He didn’t go on to stab others when they stopped beating him. His defense didn’t exceed the necessary degree, as explained by the court.

Jiang admitted in an interview that he was a new student in the school and had been bullied before. That time he told the teachers about it, but they didn’t do anything. After that, he lost trust in the teachers.

Internet users are moved by the court’s sentence, a sentence that embraces both law and humanity. The judge put himself in Jiang’s shoes, imagining what he would have done. That’s the meaning of self-defense: legal can’t surrender to illegal.

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