(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
Outrage as accident victim left to die
A SPEEDING taxi knocks a pedestrian off her feet, sending her hurtling through the air. Dozens of people stand gawking or walk past, as if the young woman sprawled in the busy intersection simply doesn’t exist. A full minute passes, and another speeding vehicle, this time an SUV, tramples the prone woman. Her unconscious body churns under its large wheels like a lumpen sack.
After a grainy video of the incident in the city of Zhumadian surfaced on Chinese social media this past week, the initial reaction was one of outrage directed at the more than 40 pedestrians and drivers who passed within meters of the woman, all failing to offer help.
Many Chinese say they avoid helping people on the street because of widespread stories about extortionists who seek help from passers-by and then feign injuries and demand compensation — perhaps explaining reaction to the incident in central China’s Henan Province.
After the video surfaced last week, garnering more than 5 million views in its first 24 hours, local police were forced to disclose that the accident took place weeks earlier, on April 21.
The woman, Ma Ruixia, died, while the two drivers who hit her were held under investigation, police said, without giving further details.
The news swept through social media and even state media outlets.
The Communist Youth League, an influential Party organization, circulated the video on its Weibo account, urging its 5 million followers to “reject indifference.”
An opinion column on china.com, a state media organ, asked citizens to “reflect” on the tragedy. Others used the episode as a starting point to vent about social ills.
A national debate flared up following a similar case in 2011, when an unattended 2-year-old was hit by a truck on a busy street in south China’s Guangdong Province and lay in a pool of blood without any help from bystanders for seven minutes. She later died.
In the following years, several cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, enacted Good Samaritan laws.
Examples of bystander apathy are worldwide, from the case of Kitty Genovese, a woman stabbed to death outside her New York apartment in 1964, to Chicago last year, where a man knocked unconscious in an assault was run over and killed by a taxi as bystanders walked away.
In India, a video showed a man unsuccessfully pleading for help following a road accident that killed his wife and child in 2013. That same year, passers-by refused to stop to help a naked, bleeding gang-rape victim after she was dumped from a bus onto a New Delhi street. The 23-year-old student died of her injuries.
But the Chinese have been particularly self-critical on the matter.
A 2014 state media poll found that Chinese thought “lacking faith and ethics” was the No. 1 social problem, followed by “being a bystander or being selfish.”
Many in China’s intelligentsia reject the idea that an ancient strain of Chinese culture that focuses on the immediate family explains tragedies like Zhumadian. Confucius, after all, taught the Golden Rule. And Mencius, another revered philosopher, urged disciples to love others’ children and respect others’ parents as they would their own.