Full Title Name:  China Case Studies: #1. Intentional Cruelty to Zoo Bears

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Song Wei Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2005 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal and Historical Web Center

A short case study of what happened when an individual harmed several bears at a public zoo in China.

It was sunny on January 29 th , 2002. As usual, crowds of people went to Beijing Zoo delightedly to watch the lovely animals. Nobody could foresee that something astonishing would happen in such a peaceful and pleasant place. However, Liu Haiyang, a student only 22 years old of Tsinghua University, splashed sodium hydroxide solution which he had stolen from the school lab on innocent brown bears and black bears in the Bear Hill Exhibition Zone. In an instant white smoke rose on all sides and the injured bears held their heads with paws painfully , unable to stand the suffering. However, their bitter lives were far from ending. On February 23 rd , Liu Haiyang poured sulphuric acid solution into the mouth of black bears that trusted human beings. The bear shrieked, which grieved whoever heard this. But watching all this, Liu Haiyang could still stroll around the Bear Hill bounding wall for one minute and then left satisfactorily.


In the splash case, three black bears and two brown bears that used to be lively and cute were severely burned: some bear’s mouth was hurt, hard to swallow; some bear’s limbs were burned, unable to walk; some bear’s chest, back and buttocks were burned, unable to manage daily life; some bear even lost sight. Drastic changes happened to their quiet lives all of a sudden. Under arrest, Liu Haiyang explained his behavior by “research into the acuteness of the bears’ smell”.


This case immediately attracted the whole society’s eyeballs, and was covered in time by newspapers, magazines, websites and TV stations. Hot discussion was also aroused, of which the most controversial part stroke on how to punish Liu Haiyang. On the one hand, Some people insisted on heavy sentence, for he burned the bears time and again indifferently despite their suffering. Such an unmerciful and impassionate person should shoulder the responsibility for what he had done, while warning others as well. If he got slight punishment, maltreatment on animals would happen again. But on the other hand, some maintained that slight punishment would be enough, considering that he was only a 22-year old student of Tsinghua University with excellent scores and bright future. If we say that we should love animals, why not tolerate this stripling with high marks? Besides, other even believed that animals’ justice should not baffle human beings’.


Academically, Liu Haiyang was outstanding and could contribute to our nation. Moreover, he was a very young man whose life would be destroyed once sentenced. However, his deeds presented that he even lacked the most essential morals; and it would be hard to imagine what it would be like if he went further. Accordingly, I think he ought to pay for his behavior. However, the lack of specific law to protect animals in China makes it a sophisticated question.


After one year’s heated debating, Beijing West Region Procuratorate indicted Liu Haiyang for being a suspect to deliberately destroy public properties. The court’s final judge regarded that Liu Haiyang showed real repentance and his misdeed was not violent, so, he was free from criminal sanction. Thus Liu Haiyang, punished to remain in college under observation, would attain the Graduation Certificate of Tsinghua Uni. In June, 2003 and continue his studies as a postgraduate at Tsinghua.


The matter almost ended now. But further reflection on Chinese society is still going on:


1.       China lacks moral education and psychological education. The vice director of Chinese Youth Research Center Sun Xiaoyun pointed out that the case exposed that emotional education for youngsters was blank at present. The main cause was that China adopted exam-focus education; in which score was the only criterion to judge students, and consequently, problems concerning personality and feelings of students with high marks might probably be ignored.


2.       Chinese young people lacks a strong sense of law


An investigation table is as follows: (people investigated: 26769)



Regarding “Student of Tsinghua Uni.”, which aspect needs strengthening most?


Moral Education

Control of Dangerous Products

Regulation & Management of the Zoo

Improvement of laws on Animal Protection












The table reveals that those who chose to perfect laws and improve management are no more than 50%, less than those who chose to improve moral education at school, which is 51.14%. It fully demonstrates how indifferent the Chinese are towards laws on animal protection.


3.       Many Chinese experts on criminal law hold that laws on animal protection are vacant in China. The vice President of China Criminal Law Research Institution and professor on criminal law at the University of Politics and Laws of China Ruan Qilin, and the famous expert on criminal law and professor of the Law College of Beijing University Chen Xingliang said that in China there were only laws on illegal hunting animals and killing valuable and severely-in-danger animals. Liu Haiyang did injure and mistreat animals but he didn’t murder them. Murder and maltreatment in criminal law refer to human beings, not animals. According to the principle that crime should be judged according to laws, there is indeed a vacancy in law. The professor of the Law College at People’s University of China believed that criminal law, Wildlife Protection Law and judicatory explanation all failed to regulate such behavior.


The discussion above shows that Chinese laws seemed weak against such animal maltreatment like Liu Haiyang Splashing Harmful Liquid on Bears. This case ended with Liu Haiyang’s exemption from criminal responsibilities. He attained the Graduation Certificate of TsInghua University and continued to study as a postgraduate. His misdeed received no punishment by law. There were no related laws in China to sanction such behavior. If it went on like this, animals in our country would suffer more pain and maltreatment. Thus we should establish corresponding laws to control such behaviors as deliberately injuring, ill treating and deserting animals. The secretary general of China Wildlife Protection Association Wang Fuxing and the chief of Wildlife Management Section of Protection Department of the National Forrest Bureau held that the most urgent task at present was to strengthen law establishment, perfect and clarify protection measures. Actually many countries have similar laws or rules which we should learn from.


Mere Laws are not enough, which serve as a basis to control misdeeds. A sense of law is also required. Therefore we should enhance law construction, strengthen common legal education so that the people could understand and obey the laws.


It is most urgent to improve the establishment of animal protection law in China. By long-term consideration, strengthening moral and psychological education is the essential way. We should implement quality education to enhance the sense of animal protection and cultivate affectionate citizens with high morals.



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