Toddler Declared "Brain Dead" in Guangdong Hit-and-Run Tragedy (Updated)

A 2-year-old girl named Yue Yue is in critical condition after she was run over twice in a Guangdong market and ignored by numerous passers-by. From China Daily:

Footage from a surveillance camera presented on local TV shows Yue Yue was walking in a hardware market in Foshan, Guangdong province, on Thursday, about 100 meters away from her home, when she was run over by a van at 5:26 pm. Three passers-by who noticed the injured girl chose to ignore her.

The girl was then run over by a light-duty truck. The riders of four electric bicycles, a tricycle and three passers-by all chose to ignore her and no one at a shop close to the scene came to her aid.

Seven minutes after she was first hit by the van, a 57-year-old rag collector noticed the girl and moved her to the curb. The woman then tried talking to the shopkeeper but received no response. She then walked into the street and a few seconds later, the girl’s mother appears and rushes away with the girl.

According to reports the van driver had just split up from his girlfriend and was talking on his mobile phone when he hit the girl.

“If she is dead, I may pay only about 20,000 yuan ($3,125). But if she is injured, it may cost me hundreds of thousands yuan,” said the driver over the phone to the media, before he gave himself up to the police.

A chilling video of a news report has appeared on Youku showing security camera footage of the entire event, and waves of comments have emerged on Chinese social media sites (translated via chinaSMACK). While netizens have unanimously condemned the driver of the van which initially struck the girl, opinion toward the bystanders has varied. Many comments refer to a 2006 case in which a resident of Nanjing, Peng Yu, helped an old woman who had fallen only to have her later accuse him of causing the injury and win her claim when a judge ruled that Peng would not have helped the woman up if he had not caused the fall. 

The “Nanjing Peng Yu” incident has produced a fear of extortion among Chinese who witness public injury, especially in recent cases involving the elderly. From a September Xinhua News report:

An eery echo is found in a more recent event that took place in Rugao, east China’s Jiangsu province on Aug 26: A bus driver went to the help of an 81-year-old woman he saw lying on the ground by the side of her overturned tricycle. She eventually told the police that he was the one that hit her. Fortunately the bus was equipped with a video camera that showed that the old woman was lying. Sales of video cameras for cars have reportedly shot up in the days since.

The same street stunt recurs—-an old person falls down, a woman who happens to be on the spot will have to think twice before springing to the rescue. Seeing a fallen oldster, to lend a hand or not, it is a question! 

In today’s China, it seems, a good deed can be compounded by extortion and even legally punished. That explains why Samaritans are thin on the ground these days in a country that enjoys time-honored fine traditions of being ready to help those in need. A recent online poll found in China that 84 percent of the polled would not offer assistance to a fallen oldster on the street for fear of extortion.

“It is not always necessary to help old people immediately after they fall down, depending on different conditions and symptoms they have shown,” according to the “timely” guidelines published early in the month by the Ministry of Health.

See also recent CDT coverage of netizens’ responses to a dramatic rescue of a swimmer in Hangzhou’s West Lake, and more on China’s “Good Samaritan problem”.

Update: While Yue Yue’s family awaits test results as their daughter remains in critical condition on Tuesday, The New York Times reports on the eruption of comments on social media and the debate surrounding the proper response of bystanders to accidents:

The story rocketed to the top of Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, over the weekend, Shanghaiist reported. Many saw in the casual disregard of those who did not help a symbol of an almost Hobbesian state of struggle, while others argued that Good Samaritans have been punished in the past for intervening in such episodes.

“This society is seriously ill. Even cats and dogs shouldn’t be treated so heartlessly,” one person posted to Sina Weibo, Agence-France Presse reported.

Another poster, named Johnny Yao and quoted by The Daily Telegraph, writes: “Everyone is praising the rubbish-collecting granny for helping, but isn’t it normal to help someone who is wounded or dying? This just shows how abnormal is the moral situation in this society! The sad Chinese, poor China, are we even rescuable?”

The China Media Project notes that traditional media have also chimed in:

One of the lengthiest reports comes from the official, but also very commercial, Guangzhou Daily. The report quotes a number of experts, including Fudan University sociologist Gu Xiaoming (顾晓明), who said that people had lost their “reverence for life” and felt “indifferent or even cold about life or death” owing to the new complexities of Chinese social life. Faced with a situation like Xiao Yueyue’s, Gu said, many people will not know what to do: “People will rationalize [the situation] and think, if I try to save her but she dies because I can’t, how will that make me responsible?”

Chen Xianmei (陈贤妹), the woman who eventually did come to Xiao Yueyue’s aid, told Guangzhou Daily that she asked four or five people who has stalls along the street whether they knew whose child this was. She says they all said, “It’s not mine,” and no one offered any help. She then shouted in all directions, she says, asking for help or information, and only then did the child’s mother come running.

At People’s Daily Online today, columnist Li Hongbing (李泓冰) writes: “Any one of us might become the ‘passerby’ at the side of Xiao Yueyue. Please, stop. Move her out of the center of the road. Or extend a hand of comfort, carrying her away from danger.”

The China Daily ran a timely story today of a 15-year old under arrest in Wuhan for harming a woman he claims he was simply helping up after she was struck by an electric car.

Sources:

– “Hospital offers little hope for girl’s survival” from China Daily

– “2-Year-Old Girl Ran Over By Van & Ignored by 18 Bystanders” from chinaSMACK

– “‘Good people and good deeds’ should never be tarnished” from Xinhua News

– “Mother testifies to good character of rescuer” from China Daily

– “Chinese Debate Aiding Strangers After Toddler’s Critical Injury” from the New York Times

– “Would you lift a hand to help?” from the China Media Project

– “Teen accused of hurting woman” from China Daily