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2nd pedestrian death sparks debate in Hangzhou
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Police in east China's Hangzhou city are investigating the death of a 16-year-old girl who was killed Tuesday night by a car driven by a suspected drunk driver in a case that has renewed public debate on the safety of the city's roads.

Local media have reported the girl, Ma Fangfang, was killed on a pedestrian crossing just two weeks after the sentencing of drag racer Hu Bin to three years in jail for the killing of a young man on another city crossing in May.

The crossing where migrant worker Ma was killed was widened from 4 meters to 7 meters by the municipal government after the May accident.

A police spokesman said they had yet to ascertain if Ma was on the pedestrian crossing when she was hit by the car on Tuesday, as witness testimonies differ from that of the driver.

Hangzhou police said the accident occurred at 9:25 p.m. and witnesses said the teenager was thrown a significant distance from the car. She died an hour later in hospital.

Police have detained the driver of the vehicle, Wei Zhigang, 29, and claim he had been drinking according to a breathalyser test.

Police said a woman who was in the car with him at the time of the accident had not been detained.

Ma, a migrant worker originally from Linhai City in Zhejiang Province, was out with friends at the time.

In a bid to raise public awareness for road safety, the Hangzhou government painted red hearts and the word "you and me share the road of love" between the lines of the crossing.

Hangzhou Party chief Wang Guoping expressed condolences for the death of Ma and ordered severe punishment against the driver.

"We will take prompt and decisive actions to fight against speeding and drinking and driving to ensure public safety," Wang said.

But the public is still concerned.

"I am proud to live in this scenic city of Hangzhou, but had never thought it is a place where people are killed on pedestrian crossing," wrote a commenter nicknamed Angry Youth on the online forum, bbs.163.com.

"Dose the pedestrian cross lead to the heaven," another online commenter wrote.

Other people called on the government to take measures to prevent such accidents from happening again, as they did after the death on May 7.

In that case, the driver, Hu Bin, 20, came under fierce criticism from the public for dragracing at speeds from 84 km to 101 km per hour on a downtown road with a speed limit of 50 km per hour.

Hu paid 1.13 million yuan (165,400 U.S. dollars) in compensation to the family of the victim, before the Xihu district court in Hangzhou handed down the sentence of three years in jail.

Thousands of Hangzhou citizens gathered in the street on the second day of the accident to mourn the dead.

Road safety has been under hot discussion over the past three months since a May 7 accident caused by a drunk driver who lost control of his vehicle, leading to the deaths of five people, including a pregnant woman, in July in the neighboring city of Nanjing.

Weeks later, a retired teacher threw bricks at cars that ran red lights in the northwest city of Lanzhou, in a desperate bid to protect pedestrians.

The retired teacher received more applause than criticism, although he knows the conduct is illegal.

Liu Chenglin, a local lawyer in Hangzhou, said that the practice of drinking and driving does not have due punishment in China, as in most cases the driver's driving license is suspended or the driver is detained.

"We need to have zero tolerance against such practices, so that reckless drivers will think twice," Liu said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2009)

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