A Chinese court has ruled that the producer of a hit kids cartoon was partly to blame for the injuries suffered by two children when their friend tied them to a tree and set them on fire in an imitation of a scene from the show, state media reported.
Two brothers aged seven and four from eastern Jiangsu province were badly burnt in April by the actions of their 10-year-old friend who confessed he was copying a scene from Xi Yangyang & Hui Tailang, which translates as Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The 7-year-old suffered 80 per cent burns to his body and his brother 40 per cent.
The cartoon popular among children and adults features the wolf who tries to catch the goat and prevent it from escaping, to no avail. Scenes have included the goat being plunged into boiling water and undergoing electrocution, and the wolf's wife regularly beats him over the head with a pan when he fails to bring the goat home for their dinner.
Xinhua said the legal guardians of the boy who tied them to the tree, identified as Shun Shun, and the producer, Guangzhou-based Creative Power Entertaining Co., Ltd., are jointly responsible for the two brothers' injuries, according to the verdict of the court. Shun Shun's guardians will have to pay 60 per cent of the injured brothers' compensation and the company will pay 15 per cent. Xinhua didn't give a figure for the compensation amount, but other media reports said the company would have to pay nearly $6,900, and that the case was a civil one brought by the brothers' family.
The Donghai County People's Court refused to answer questions and referred queries to their propaganda office, where calls rang unanswered. The company declined to comment.
Users of China's lively Twitter-like sites poured scorn on the assigning of blame on the company, with some questioning why state broadcaster China Central Television, which televises the cartoon, wasn't being held responsible.
Hao Rui, a lawyer from Beijing Yingke Law Firm who specializes in lawsuits involving the media industry, said it was the first time he had heard of a producer being sued and held liable for a child imitating something seen on TV. One reason may be because the other defendants and the children's family can't afford to pay the medical costs, he said.