Chinese man who stabbed eye surgeon in Beijing hospital gets suspended death sentence

Matt Ho
·3-min read

A man who stabbed his eye surgeon in a violent attack at a Beijing hospital last year was given a suspended death sentence with a two-year reprieve on Tuesday.

Cui Zhengguo, 37, was found guilty of attempted murder for the attack on ophthalmologist Tao Yong and three others in January 2020, according to the verdict handed down by the Beijing No 3 Intermediate People’s Court.

The 40-year-old eye surgeon was seriously injured in the attack at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, which prompted a public outcry over chronic violence against health workers in China.

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“The defendant resorted to cruel and violent means and caused extremely serious consequences with a bad social impact … there should be no leniency,” the court said in a ruling posted on its official Weibo account.

Under Chinese law, a suspended death sentence is usually commuted to life imprisonment or a fixed jail term for good behaviour during the two-year reprieve period.

Four people were injured in the knife attack at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital in January last year. Photo: ifeng
Four people were injured in the knife attack at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital in January last year. Photo: ifeng

In its ruling, the court said Cui had been unhappy with his medical treatment by Tao and other doctors at the hospital. It said Cui attacked Tao with a knife in the consultation room and stabbed the eye surgeon as he tried to escape, inflicting serious injuries to his head and hands. Three others who tried to stop Cui were left with minor injuries.

The court said although no one had been killed and Cui had not fled the scene afterwards, his crime was serious as he had carried out the attack in a crowded hospital.

At least 50 medical workers have been killed in hospital attacks in the past two decades in China, where critics have long complained of an inadequate public health system and poor communication between doctors and patients.

President Xi Jinping praised the efforts of medical workers last year after the Covid-19 pandemic was largely brought under control, and in August he called on officials and the public to show respect and care for hospital staff.

Cui Zhengguo had been unhappy with his medical treatment by Tao and other doctors at the hospital, according to the court ruling. Photo: Weibo
Cui Zhengguo had been unhappy with his medical treatment by Tao and other doctors at the hospital, according to the court ruling. Photo: Weibo

Ophthalmologist Tao recovered from the attack but it left him with injuries that mean he can no longer perform eye surgery. A month before he returned to work in May, Tao spoke out about the attack and the safety of medical workers.

“I would say I can understand [why] Cui did it … but I should say I cannot forgive this because it is no longer a matter about me but the safety of tens of thousands of medical workers and whether they can continue to do their work in a safe and secure environment,” Tao told The Beijing News in April.

He took to social media on Monday to call for public support for doctors and nurses in China.

“For some patients, medical treatment is just a service they pay for, and they believe that if they have spent the money then they should be cured,” Tao wrote on Weibo. “This sort of attitude is the reason why we have medical disputes and even violence against medical workers.”

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