A Chinese toddler who was ignored by at least 18 passers-by as she lay bleeding and unconscious in the street, has died, the hospital treating her said Friday, in an incident that has shocked the nation.
The plight of the two-year-old girl, nicknamed Yue Yue, captured the public imagination after surveillance camera footage showed her being knocked down first by a van and then several minutes later by a small truck.
At least 18 people were shown walking past the girl as she lay in the street critically injured, before a female rubbish collector finally picked her up and moved her to the curb.
Several passers-by can be seen stopping to look down at the girl before carrying on, and their failure to help her has triggered speculation the country’s rapid development and urbanisation has made people more selfish.
Millions of Chinese went online to watch the grainy footage of the incident, which took place on October 13 in a narrow market street in the southern Chinese city of Foshan.
China’s hugely popular weibos — microblogs similar to Twitter — have buzzed with the incident since the video emerged, with many online commentators hailing the rubbish collector as a hero.
But there has also been much soul-searching about why both the drivers who hit Yue Yue and the passers-by in China’s wealthiest province, Guangdong, chose to leave her for dead rather than stop and help.
“The little girl’s destiny made us ashamed because she left this world painfully due to our indifference and neglect,” posted one commentator online after the hospital treating Yue Yue said she had died.
A commentary in Friday’s Global Times daily said the incident had exposed the “dark side” of Chinese society.
“The Yue Yue incident reminds us of where China is standing on the ladder of its moral development,” it said. “This is what happens in a modern society when many decisions are shaped at a fast pace.”
A senior official in Guangdong said the tragedy should be a “wake-up call” for society.
“We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet,” said Wang Yang at a provincial meeting, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Some commentators speculated that the failure to help Yue Yue was motivated by fear of being blamed for her injuries after a high-profile 2006 case in which a driver who stopped to help an elderly woman was later prosecuted.
Peng Yu, then 26, said he stopped after seeing the woman fall in the eastern city of Nanjing, but she accused him of knocking her down with his car, and a court later ordered him to pay her 45,000 yuan ($7,000) in damages.
“The judge in Peng Yu’s case in Nanjing has destroyed the kindness of a whole nation and it is difficult to recover,” wrote one weibo user on Friday.
One sociologist told the Guangdong Daily that many Chinese today do not know how to act in such situations.
“People will rationalise and think, if I try to save her but she dies because I can?t, how will that make me responsible?” said Fudan University’s Gu Xiaoming.
Police in Foshan said the drivers of both vehicles that hit the young girl had been detained and would face trial.
One was detained the night of the accident and the other gave himself up three days later, police said.