Mother or girlfriend – who do you save in a fire?


Will you save your mother or girlfriend in case of a deadly fire? This tricky question was asked to hundreds of thousands of trainee lawyers and judges taking China’s National Judicial Exam which is designed to assess whether the examinee is qualified to practice law in China or not.

The question went like this: If a person is capable of saving his mother but saves his girlfriend instead, is he committing a crime of non-action?

Paper two gave multiple choice options for sections on drug laws, roads, pollution, fraud, bribery, murder and other serious offences.
But Question 52 asked students about “crimes of omission”, posing scenarios including lifeguards failing to save a drowning child, a husband deciding not to rescue his wife during divorce proceedings and someone letting friends drink poisoned coffee.

Option C told the story of a man who chose to save his girlfriend from a burning building over his mother, saying his actions amounted to a criminal failure to act.

While the exam has replaced water with a fire, the question is very similar to the hypothetical question about choosing between saving a drowning mother or a girlfriend – a question often asked by girlfriends that ends up putting guys in an awkward dilemma.

The Ministry of Justice later published the answer on September 24, saying that the man would be committing a crime of non-action if he chose his girlfriend over his mother, the Global Times reported.

According to the law in China, a son is obligated to save his mother, not his girlfriend.

The question sparked discussion on social media with some netizens agreed with the answer, saying that it would be heartless to leave their mother in danger.

“I would definitely save my mother first. Apart from legal reasons, my mother raised me. Plus my girlfriend is younger, which means she has a better chance of escaping the fire on her own,” a netizen was quoted as saying

Some others felt that the law is unjust. “People’s lives are equal, they should be treated equally by the law. I have no idea why giving up your mom is a crime, while giving up your girlfriend is not,” a netizen said.

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