...said one comment among many that said that Chinese law had helped create a fear of intervening.
It is a story that has deeply unsettled millions in China, posing troubling questions about whether three decades of headlong economic development has left nothing but a moral vacuum in its wake.
It begins last Thursday when a two-year-old girl totters into a narrow lane in a wholesale market in the thriving industrial city of Foshan in Guangdong Province and is hit by a small, white van. The driver pauses, and then pulls away, crushing the child for a second time under his rear wheels.
It is not the accident itself, but what happens next — or rather doesn’t happen – that has left millions of ordinary Chinese wondering where their country is heading.
One by one, no fewer than 18 passers-by are seen on closed circuit television ignoring the girl as she lies, clearly visible in the road, haemorrhaging into the gutter. Not a single one of them stops to help.
The first is a young man in a white T-shirt and trainers. He walks on past the prone form of girl who is by now bleeding profusely, without a second glance.
Next comes a cyclist who wobbles slightly to avoid the dying child and then pedals on, turning his head back momentarily, as if to check he really did see a child dying in the street.
As the pool of blood spreads, a third pedestrian comes by, clearly sees the bleeding girl, but steps out into the small lane to give her a wide berth.
All three could have moved the girl, later named by her parents as 2-year-old Yueyue, but none did, allowing another, larger vehicle following down the lane a few minutes later to run her over for a second time.
The pictures of the incident which happened last Thursday afternoon then show a succession of other cyclists and rickshaw drivers weaving round the girl, including a woman walking with a child who on seeing Yueyue visibly quickens her step, dragging her charge after her.
It is only the nineteenth passer-by, a 58-year-old street cleaner called Chen Xianmei, who drops her bag of rubbish and rushes to the bleeding child, attempting to scoop up her up, but finding her floppy and lifeless.
Mrs Chen, who is only 4ft 7in tall, then calls for the girl’s mother who comes rushing into view, taking up her child in her arms, who is now in intensive care in the military hospital in the city of Guangzhou.
Yueyue remains in a critical condition, a nurse told The Daily Telegraph by phone. Earlier doctors said she had suffered major head injuries and was breathing only with the assistance of a ventilator The story of Yueyue was the leading item across China’s online news portals as the copies of the CCTV highly distressing footage attracted more than a million viewings in a number of hours.
Many viewers reacted with dismay, citing the incident as further evidence that China had become a “world without morals”.
“Everyone is praising the rubbish-collecting granny for helping, but isn’t it normal to help someone who is wounded or dying?”, asked Johnny Yao on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, “This just shows how abnormal is the moral situation in this society! The sad Chinese, poor China are we even rescuable?”
Others blamed China’s compensation culture for the apparent show of callousness, recalling a famous 2006 judgment when a Good Samaritan who helped a woman get to hospital was wrongly ordered to pay her compensation.
“They didn’t ignore the girl, they just didn’t dare help her,” said one comment among many that said that Chinese law had helped create a fear of intervening.
However many others said there could be no excuse, and that the scenes in the video should “shake the soul of every conscientious person” in China.
“Even if the passers-by couldn’t rescue her, they could dial 120 and 110 [China’s emergency numbers] and help to stop vehicles, then the little Yueyue wouldn’t have been run over by the second car,” said another comment posted by 'Dull Baby’.
“What’s up with people these days? They make so many excuses to turn a blind eye. The society is so indifferent, so heartless.” Yueyue’s father, a man surnamed Wang who was shown weeping with his wife on television news bulletins, said he didn’t want to enter the moral debate, only pray for his child’s survival.
“Yueyue is so lovely, often amuses us. Sometime if I quarrelled with her mother and if her mother cried, she would tell us not to cry, she always tried to amuse us. I don’t have any thoughts now, I just hope my child will wake up and call me Dad again.”