China: Are there no Samaritans?

2012-12-14 12:10

BEIJING, China - A video of a child being crushed by a minibus then ignored by passers-by has ignited a new bout of soul-searching in China.

Internet users are asking: "Are ethics slipping amid rapid change?"

The video, which police told state news agency Xinhua was authentic, shows five-year-old Yan Zhe crossing a street alone in front of the parked bus which knocks him over as it pulls away.


Several passers-by walk on while others stand around. When one woman waves for help as she rushes over to the driver of an approaching car, he reverses away.

It was 10 minutes before another car driver took Yan Zhe to hospital but the boy died on the way, Xinhua reported.

The event recalled a similar case in 2011 when a toddler, fatally struck by two vehicles, lay on the street while at least 18 people walked past.

A provincial news anchor said after the more recent incident: "This soundless image again stirs up a huge wave deep in our hearts, questions our innermost being... is there a conscience there?" 

Xinhua said the minibus driver agreed to pay Yan's parents the equivalent of nearly R1-million compensation if they did not press charges.


Users of China's Twitter-like service Sina Weibo said the boy's death symbolised deteriorating ethics in the country. "This society is completely deformed, there are no words to describe the apathy among people, how long can this kind of China go on?" asked one.

Another: "The moral fibre of the Chinese people is trash."

Some, however, focused on the individuals involved. "I feel the guardian bears major responsibility. How can you let a small child play on the street by himself? The driver also kind of lacks humanity."

An unnamed local government official told Xinhua that the death differed from that of 2011 because passers-by "actively helped" and the driver did not leave the scene.

In that incident two-year-old "Yue Yue" was finally picked up by a rubbish collector who moved her to the kerb.

At the time provincial leader Wang Yang was quoted in Xinhua as saying: "We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet."

WHEELS24 SAYS: Within most legal systems - South Africa included - there is no compulsory duty of performance for bona fide civilians in emergency situations, as there is with emergency service workers (doctors, nurses, EMT’s, police, lifeguards and the like) even if they’re off duty.

Therefore, China does not have a set legal prohibition against helping injured people.

The issue that seems to make Chinese citizens reluctant to do so is the possibility of the person they help blaming them for the event which caused their injuries and subsequently being ordered by a Chinese court of law to pay compensation to the person who has falsified their claim(China has a history of  these sort of occurrences).