Mother claims son left in coma following unauthorised martial arts event in British Columbia

Zhenhuan Lei

2nd March 2024 – (Vancouver) The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) academic community is reeling after Zhenhuan Lei, a 26-year-old graduate student in chemistry, known for his dreams of becoming a scientist, has been left in a vegetative state following a martial arts tournament incident. The young scholar, who frequently engaged in late-night experiments, is not expected to recover, according to medical professionals.

Zhenhuan Lei

Ying Li, Lei’s mother, has been left to grapple with the devastating turn of events, likening her experience to enduring a death. She mourns the loss of her son’s potential, once a vibrant academic on the cusp of a promising career, now reduced to a life confined to a hospital bed.

Lei, whose dedication to his studies was matched by his passion for martial arts, sustained critical injuries at the Western Canadian Martial Arts Championship (WCMAC) held in October 2023. In the aftermath, Li has initiated legal action, claiming negligence on the part of the event’s organisers, including insufficient safety protocols and unqualified personnel.

The lawsuit alleges that the event was not sanctioned as required by British Columbia law, implicating the World Kickboxing and Karate Union Canada (WKUC) and Simon Fraser University, the venue host, in the failure to ensure the safety and legal compliance of the event.

Li’s pursuit of justice is echoed by her attorney, Erik Magraken, who seeks to hold accountable those responsible for the enforcement of rules and medical responsiveness at the tournament. Their primary objective is to uncover the truth behind the matchmaking process and the apparent lack of adequate medical care.

The complaint filed in court recounts how Lei endured three matches during the tournament, competing in what was advertised as a “continuous kick light” event, which promised light and controlled contact, excluding athletes with professional fighting experience. However, Lei’s final opponent, the lawsuit claims, had competed professionally in Thailand, a detail overlooked by the organisers.

The bout that led to Lei’s injuries was marred by excessive force, with the referees failing to uphold the rules of the competition, according to the claim. Despite showing signs of injury, Lei was permitted to continue fighting. The lawsuit condemns the delayed medical response as Lei showed severe symptoms post-match, including vomiting and lapsing in and out of consciousness.

The claim further criticises the event organisers for not providing prompt medical attention or effectively communicating with emergency services, resulting in a 90-minute wait for paramedics. Lei suffered an acute subdural hematoma, a life-threatening type of brain bleed where timing is critical.

Defendants in the case have yet to respond publicly to the allegations, with some expressing sympathy for Lei and his family but refraining from comment due to the ongoing legal proceedings. Meanwhile, Simon Fraser University has stated it is unable to comment further as the matter is before the courts.

In a poignant change of roles, Li, who now holds a committeeship to manage her son’s affairs, has returned to China with her son for his care. A fundraising effort has been established to support the substantial medical and repatriation costs.