In China, an exercise ball kills a baby and everyone in the block is punished

A baby was killed by a metal ball that fell from a multistorey apartment block, and despite a door-to-door investigation by the police, the perpetrator has not been found.
So how can justice be served?
The answer, in the case of Suining city in China’s southwestern Sichuan province: make every household in the block pay 3,000 yuan (US$439) to the baby’s family.
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The controversial decision, which has stirred public debate, came four years after the incident occurred in November 2016.
On that fateful day, Madam Li was pushing her 12-month-old daughter “Yanyan” (a pseudonym) – in a pram along a street in Suining when a metal palm-sized ball – the sort used for hand exercises – dropped out of a nearby building, hitting the baby.
“There were no cries from the child, who quickly became unconscious,” local media reported.
Yanyan was rushed to hospital but died that night, a week short of her first birthday.
In videos making the rounds on the internet, the girl’s mother says she was so devastated she initially lost the will to live. However, thoughts of catching the killer and getting justice for her child kept her going.
For a month, Yanyan’s parents – identified by their family name Zhou – searched for clues in the vicinity of the apartment block, asking residents for tips.
When no one came forward as the owner of the ball, the couple sued everyone in the block and settled in to wait as the case passed through the legal system.
Yanyan’s father was 44 at the time of the incident and her mother was 41. They had married only the year before Yanyan’s death and went on to have another child a year after.
Late last month, the Chuanshan local district court ruled that all households in the eight-storey block – except the vacant apartments – shared culpability, and ordered them to pay compensation jointly.
It said that under Article 87 of the Liability Law, the presumption of guilt applied to “disputes over liability for damage from unidentified thrown objects and falling objects”.
“As long as the owner or the user of the house cannot prove that he is not at fault, he is presumed to be at fault,” the court said.
“Although only one person could have committed the infringement, the law should protect the weak and balance the interests of all parties. This can achieve the purpose of comforting the victims and serve as a warning to the public,” it added.
Many Chinese internet users questioned the judgment, saying that while the family deserved justice it was unfair to hold all the households responsible.
Others questioned why the court had been so hasty in issuing a verdict, considering there were “countless unsolved crimes in China”.
One user said: “Anyone who admits to throwing the ball might have to pay compensation of up to a million yuan and face a jail sentence. But denying it till the very end means that everyone, including the perpetrator, only has to fork out 3,000 yuan. Who in their right mind would admit guilt?”
Another said: “The court is simply taking the easy way out. The perpetrator is a murderer and should not be let off so easily.”
Others criticised the police for failing to find the culprit, some wondering why fingerprinting the ball had not worked and pointing out that the balls usually came in pairs and tended to be used by elderly men.
In China, it is common to see men of middle age and above juggling a pair of metal balls in their palms. Many believe the balls help relax muscles, calm nerves, boost circulation, improve sleep, and even lower blood pressure.
Some internet users said more surveillance cameras were needed, while one said the court should have ordered every household to pay 10 times as much as doing so would “induce everyone living in the building to provide clues and conduct a more thorough investigation leading to the eventual arrest of the culprit”.
Other concerns were more practical: what if the culprit was eventually found? Would households be refunded the compensation, presumably from the perpetrator?
Another pointed out t…
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