Chinese toddlerWang Yue

It’s tough to watch the security camera footage, but the whole thing was caught on tape. Wang — a toddler — had wandered away from her parents and into a commercial area of Foshan, in Guangdong, China. A delivery van runs her over. The driver immediately stops, looks around, and — without getting out of his van — drives away …running over the girl again with his back wheels. Witnesses saw it, but no one does a thing. Then a larger truck comes by and runs her over again. Amazingly, the girl is still alive, but 18 people in view of the security camera walk by, some looking at her, and no one does a thing to help. And surely there are more, out of view of the camera. Finally, Chen Xianmei, 57, a trash scavenger, sees the girl and moves in to help, carrying the tiny broken body to the girl’s parents. Wang was hospitalized in critical condition. Police were able to find both drivers and arrest them, but the girl’s parents say the drivers are not at fault: they themselves are, for not keeping better track of their child.

A still from a security camera shows someone just driving by.

But when the video was shown on Chinese television (it then went viral online), shame and guilt gripped China. “We couldn’t imagine that moral values have declined so much,” said Zhu Yongping, a Guangzhou lawyer who has attended meetings on the implications of the case. “We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet,” says Wang Yang, a government official in Guangdong. In the past, citizens who have helped others in need are sometimes prosecuted, that they “wouldn’t have stopped to help if they were not guilty” of causing the accident. So Zhu and other lawyers are drafting “Good Samaritan” legislation that would not only shield passerby from legal action if they help others in obvious emergency need, but may even penalize those who don’t. Thus, the death of “Yueyue” — the girl’s nickname — may lead to a sea change in China; she died from systemic organ failure on October 21, 8 days after she was run over. She was 2.

Author’s Note: I figured readers would want to discuss this one, so it’s on my blog where comments can be posted.

From This is True for 23 October 2011