SINGAPORE: China, long embarrassed by its citizens’ boorish behaviour, has taken one of them to court on a charge of endangering public safety.
The woman, an air passenger identified only by her surname Piao, opened an emergency exit door of a Seoul-bound Asiana Airlines plane while it was moving.
She is the first person to face a criminal charge for her action.
The trial took place on Monday in north-eastern Jilin province’s Yanji city, where the incident took place on Feb 12.
Piao’s action led the emergency slide to be deployed and caused a four-hour delay, disrupting airport operations severely and incurring economic losses of 34,000 yuan (RM19,660). Earlier, media reports said Piao had lifted the door handle by mistake.
While such cases are not a new phenomenon, this year alone has seen a dozen of them, in cities including Kunming, Chongqing, Nanjing and Shenzhen.
Eleven cases have been dealt with, but Piao’s case was deemed more serious because it took place while the plane was still moving.
The other offenders received punishments including a 5,000 yuan (RM2,891) fine, administrative detention of up to 15 days, and 35,000 yuan in compensation to the airline.
The media reports did not carry details of Piao’s charge or say whether she was convicted.
Civil Aviation Management Institute of China professor Diao Weimin said the accused could have been charged under Section 114 of the Penal Code for endangering public safety if she was found to have opened the emergency door deliberately.
If convicted, she could face between three and 10 years in jail.
“Taking tougher legal action against such offenders would send a deterrent message to others as these cases have become more frequent,” he told The Straits Times.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China said in a statement on Monday that such actions have “severely hurt aviation safety, disrupted flight operations and caused ill social impact”.
Reasons for these potentially dangerous acts ranged from “a mistake” to passengers venting their frustration over delays or impatient ones who just wanted to get off the plane more quickly.
China has recently introduced tougher tourism laws targeting wayward tourists and tour agencies in a bid to improve the country’s image and boost domestic tourism amid declining inbound tourist arrivals.
Among the four people who made it to the first national blacklist was a teenager who climbed on top of a statue of a revolutionary soldier. Those blacklisted will find it tougher to visit tourist spots, travel overseas or even obtain personal bank loans. Their names will be removed from the list if they behave during a prescribed period of time.
Tourism expert Wang Xinbin said the latest examples of unbecoming behaviour by Chinese travellers add to a growing list, which includes speaking loudly, spitting in public and queue-cutting.
Wang, who noted that the “culprits” were likely to be less educated, added: “Many Chinese tend to focus more on their own interests and convenience without considering how their actions might impact others.
“There are also some who think it is cool to show disregard for the law or authority, and get away with little or no punishment.” â€“ The Straits Times/Asia News Network