Toddler Dies in Hit-and-Run Tragedy as Debate Continues

One week after suffering brain damage in a horrific hit-and-run accident, and despite reports earlier this week that she had shown signs of stability, Guangdong hospital officials announced that 2-year-old Yue Yue died early Friday morning of systemic organ failure. From China Daily:

Despite treatment from expert doctors in the past seven days and nights, Yue Yue finally died from severe injuries, said Su Lei, dean of the hospital, at a press conference held at 8:45 releasing the conditions at the hospital where Yue Yue was treated.

Yue Yue’s parents went to the hospital to see her for the last time at 3:00 Friday morning. Her mother was too grieved to deal with the little girl’s body and only her father was doing that with the help of doctors.

The incident, which generated more than 4.5 million posts on Sina Weibo this week, has stoked outrage, condemnation and intense debate across China over the reaction of bystanders to public injury. Comments continued today upon news of Yue Yue’s death. From The Sydney Morning Herald:

The death of Yue Yue was one of the most popular topics on China’s weibos — microblogging sites similar to Twitter — today as people expressed sorrow and anger over the incident.

“Farewell to little Yue Yue. There are no cars in heaven,” wrote one microblogger on Sina’s weibo.

“Yue Yue was consumed for a week by the fake kindness of netizens… All the wishes are fake and only the 18 passers-by are real. Farewell, and do not be born in China in your next life,” another weibo user wrote.

The tragedy has generated momentum for the passage of laws to punish those who refuse to help people in distress. From China Daily:

At least 10 Party and government departments and organizations in Guangdong, including the province’s commission on politics and law, the women’s federation, the academy of social sciences and the Communist Youth League, have started discussions about punishing those who refuse to help people who clearly need it.

They are also seeking feedback from the public as to whether legislation should be enacted.

Zhu Yongping, a lawyer at Datong Law Firm, said lawyers will discuss the idea next month and push for the legislation.

“Many laws, including forbidding drunken driving, in China have been passed after high-profile individual cases, and now is the right time to legislate against refusing to help people,” Zhu said on Wednesday.

Yesterday, the Economic Observer asked its staff of young Chinese translators to reflect on the indifference of the passersby and its meaning for today’s China. From one of the respondents:

I believe it is not an isolated event and it reflects deeper problems within Chinese society. It is difficult for ordinary people to live a safe and sound life. Though China’s economy is gaining strength, problems emerge concerning the quality of its growth. Rules that are supposed to guide people’s behavior are missing. For example, people breathe polluted air, eat gutter oil, drink tainted milk, buy apartments at freakishly high prices and travel in trains that may crash. People can do evil things and get away with them because rules are easily altered and the supervision system is not working.

Yesterday, TIME’s Austin Ramzy called on a century-old short story from Chinese writer Lu Xun to demonstrate issues which have haunted Chinese society long before the events of the past week:

Will Yue Yue’s case make any difference? Lu Xun, one of China’s greatest modern writers, poses a similar possibility in a short story from nearly a century ago. The 1920 piece, from his collection Call to Arms, is titled “A Small Incident,” and it describes a man who hires a rickshaw that collides with an old woman. I ‘ve posted a 1972 translation by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang below the jump. It is just 700 words long, but like Yue Yue’s case it raises questions of responsibility, morality, money, liability and the hope that a sad incident will lead to change.

See also coverage of the flood of donations to Yue Yue’s family, and a Sina Weibo count opened in the name of the mother despite her not knowing how to use the site.

Sources:

- “Injured toddler shows signs of stability” from China Daily

- “Yue Yue dies from injuries” from China Daily

- “Chinese toddler dies a week after being hit by cars, ignored by passersby” from CNN

- “China’s hit-run scandal: Yue Yue dies” from The Sydney Morning Herald

- “Law mulled to make aid compulsory” from China Daily

- “Are Chinese Heartless? EO Translators on Yue Yue” from Economic Observer

- “‘A Small Incident’: Echoes of China’s Tragic Yue Yue Case from Almost a Century Ago” from TIME

- “Donations pour in for toddler in hit-and-run” from China.org

- “Yueyue’s parents: We’re not on Sina Weibo!” from the Shanghaiist