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Driver stuck with whopping fine for his kindness
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A man who volunteered to drive a stranger to get medical help ended up being fined 10,000 yuan ($1,470) by the police for driving an unregistered and illegal taxi.

The incident happened Sept 8 when an office worker, who is known by a false last name Zhang, picked up a man from the roadside in Minhang district in southwestern Shanghai. The man said he was suffering from a stomachache and asked for help.

Zhang's kindness was not returned with warm thanks and gratitude, but a fine of 10,000 yuan from the local traffic authority. The entire incident was a trap by the Minhang District Traffic Police department, to stop illegal taxi operations.

Zhang was driving his new Ford with the license plate number representing Wan (which stands for Anhui province -25606) when he was stopped by a man in white shirt. He agreed to give the man a ride because he seemed to be in acute pain. The man offered to pay him 10 yuan for the ride. When they reached the passenger's destination, the rider suddenly pulled Zhang's car key out of the ignition. Several men in uniform appeared and forced Zhang to a mini-van.

Police officers showed Zhang a notification that he was under investigation for driving an illegal taxi, but Zhang refused to sign it.

When the case was reported in local media, the public became angry, speaking against the action.

Zhang considered trying to find other victims of similar police action to file a group lawsuit. He also demanded a formal apology from the Minhang traffic police department.

Liu Jianqiang, a spokesman for the Minhang traffic police department, appeared on a local TV news report.

When reporters asked Liu what measures the police department take to stop pirate taxi operations, Liu said the department's actions are a "professional secret."

A press release on the official website of the Minhang traffic department said this: "Only by taking the measure of getting evidence first, and investigating and punishing later, could we deal with the difficulty of evidence acquisitionWe are doing this in order to achieve passengers' transportation market stability."

The website also posted a report for the department's achievements in 2007 and 2008, saying that more than 5,000 illegal taxi drivers have been caught and punished. The crackdown also netted more than more than 50 million yuan in fines.

Some Shanghai netizens have spoken out against the police department's tactics.

"Frankly speaking, nowadays if you are ill or in some other emergency situation, chances are rare that someone will be willing to let you into their car. Those who are willing to do so are kind and simple-minded people, a very rare species," wrote Han Han, a contemporary author in Shanghai.

"What the Minhang traffic authorities did, to put it simple, was to find these simple and kind people, take them into custody and have them pay a fine of 10,000 yuan," Han wrote in his blog, which has a total of 270 million page-views.

Zhang posted his experience on a car-themed online chat room, and many people replied that what happened to Zhang will make people not want to help those who might genuinely need assistance.

Local columnist and social critic Chen Weimin said this episode "will only further deteriorate the already degraded public moral standard, and discourage people from helping others."

One netizen on Southcn.com said, "this operation of public power has destroyed kindness in people's hearts."

However, last year, a woman named Chen Sujun, who made a living by helping police catch pirate taxi operations in Fengxian district was stabbed to death by a pirate taxi driver who found out her trap.

(China Daily by Zhang Kun September 19, 2009)

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