Planet China

Put out to pasture

The author Daniel Bell told the Financial Times recently how the Chinese authorities have combated drink driving. “Alarmed by data that showed 20% of serious road accidents were alcohol related, the Chinese government decided to crack down,” he observed. “Almost overnight, the authorities set up frequent random roadside checks and rigorously enforced harsh penalties – including compulsory jail time for first offenders and an automatic six-month driving ban. It worked. Attitudes have changed. Drinking and driving is now almost universally frowned upon in China.”

Drink driving hasn’t been eradicated entirely, however. Guangzhou Daily reported last week on a bizarre case in Yiwu involving a 32 year-old man surnamed Ma. Rather than face a breath test at a police roadblock, he pulled his Mercedes over and ran up a steep slope, only to slip drunkenly back down. As the police approached him, Ma played for time by shouting “I did not drink. I did not drive”. Then he took the unusual step of filling his mouth with grass and trying to eat it.

“We’ve seen drunken people chew gum and drink water, but never seen any of them eat grass,” the officers said later. The episode soon attracted a crowd which watched as Ma munched through the turf within a half-metre radius of where he was kneeling. Losing patience, the police took him away to have his blood tested. Over the limit, he was then arrested.

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