After shocking video of 2-year-old Chinese girl Wang Yue being run over by two cars and ignored by over a dozen passers-by rocked public opinion in China and worldwide, an arduous debate about morality and conscience has begun in the Chinese press and on the Web.
A CCTV camera caught Wang being run over by a van, then ignored by people who passed her body lying in a pool of blood. Then she was run over again, by another van, and remained motionless in the street until a 57-year-old trash collector moved her bleeding body aside. Wang is now in the hospital with little chances of surviving.
As the Good Samaritan was running from store to store to locate Wang's parents, she was told to mind her own business by multiple people, reported Xinhua, Chinese state-backed news agency. The trash collector also reportedly pleaded with passers-by to call an ambulance, which brought no results until the girl's mother arrived on the scene.
The incident caused an angry storm of opinions in China and abroad, as well inquiries as to why the eyewitnesses were so gruesomely numb to the child's suffering.
According to Xinhua, the strange behavior is to be blamed on precedents in Chinese law, which often goes against the Good Samaritan who tries to help another human being.
The guidelines on how to help elderly people who have fallen down, issued by the Ministry of Health in September, reportedly advise the public: "Don't rush to lend a hand to the elderly after seeing them fall over. It should be handled by different measures in different situations." The measure is a fruit of a broadly-known case of a Chinese man who helped an elderly lady who had fallen down, only to be accused of pushing her and having to pay her a large amount of money.
In addition, China does not observe any Good Samaritan laws, which protects those who help others in distress in most parts of the world. Because China does not have that law, it is being speculated that fear of being blamed or prosecuted for the girl's injury made so many turn "numb" when seeing Wang on the ground.
The obvious ethical problem highlited by the tragic accident became viral on the Internet.
A user going by the name of Qingdao, from the Shandong Province, posted this commnet on China Smack, a Chinese website highlighting viral videos and news from an Asian perspective:
Those above who are saying that our countrymen have become numb, I want to ask simply: What would you do if you ran into this kind of thing? Don't just blame this or that on this internet post, would you risk being accused of being the perpetrator? Would you be willing to dump your entire family's savings into the endless vortex of accident compensation? You aren't afraid of going to jail as the perpetrator? Have you not considered that one moment of greatness could mean your entire family losing their happiness with you?
Another user wrote: "It isn't ignoring, it’s not daring. If one were to encounter a Nanjing judge, one would be [expletive]."
The post was followed by a note explaining who the Nanjing Judge is:
[Note: "Nanjing judge" refers to the infamous 2006 case of a man named Peng Yu who helped a woman to the hospital after she had fallen only to have the old woman accuse him of knocking her down. The Nanjing judge in that case ultimately ruled that common sense dictated that only the person who hit her would take her to the hospital, setting a precedent that continues only further discourages and reinforces many Chinese people's wariness to help others in similar situations.]
"China as a nation has lost its passion and is beyond hope. It's a nation that can sell its soul for money," Haowu Yiyi posted on Weibo, a Chinese counterpart of Twitter, as reported by The Los Angeles Times.
People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, condemned the behavior of the passers-by in a Tuesday edition.
"We could all be the pedestrians that walk past the injured girl," the article stated.
Meanwhile, Twitter is still abuzz over the event, and has been ever since video of Wang's hit-and-run began spreading through mass media in the West Monday.
"Anyone else feel sickened?" an American Twitter user asked.
"Pray for Wang Yue. I can't believe people saw that poor toddler get hit by a car, didn't do anything, then watched as she was hit again," Shane Vich of California tweeted.
Wang has been declared "brain dead" by doctors, who do not give the girl big chances of a recovery and say she could die at any time, reported Xinhua.
The driver of the van which first hit Wang had just split with his girlfriend and was talking on the phone while driving, th agency reported.
"If she is dead, I may pay only about 20,000 yuan ($3,125),” he reportedly said in a phone statement. “But if she is injured, it may cost me hundreds of thousands yuan."