There has been a lot of media attention given to a recent tragic event. In a southern Chinese city, a toddler named Wang Yue, wandered into the path of a mini-van and was knocked down by the driver, who failed to stop. She was then driven over by another van and following that, at least 18 people on foot, bicycle, motorbike or other vehicles passed by the child lying whimpering in a pool of blood. Eventually a woman working as a street cleaner stopped to pick her up and shouted for help. The parents were located, an ambulance was called and the child was rushed to hospital. Unfortunately she had suffered severe brain damage, as well as broken bones and internal injuries and she died a week later.
Surveillance cameras at the scene recorded the hit-and-run vehicles as well as the 18 passersby. Much comment has been made about the lack of care and the decline in morals that led to so many people turning away from a child clearly in need of assistance. A national outcry against the selfish and uncaring attitudes has exploded across the web and microblogs.
I am not sure to what degree the international media has explored the reasons behind the refusal of so many people to stop and help. There is an ongoing trend within Chinese society that when a “good Samaritan” stops to help someone in distress, often the victim turns on the rescuer, accusing them of causing the injury and demanding compensation. There is a well-known story of an 88-year woman who fell down the stairs while disembarking from a bus. Someone stopped to help her and she turned on him, claiming that he had pushed her. In the court case which followed, he was made to pay her many thousands in compensation. As more and more of these situations have arisen, the average person is afraid of “lending a hand” in case that hand is then obliged to accept responsibility and the monetary obligations which follow. It is too just costly to care.
Out of these tragedies, now follow many stories of accidents and incidents where onlookers have stood and watched and waited and refused to get involved, and potentially non-fatal injuries have resulted in death as help has not arrived in time. Most people will not get involved unless there are other witnesses that confirm that they did not cause the incident. Even when the one in need has acknowledged that the rescuer is not responsible, often they later change their story at the instigation of relatives that try to seize the opportunity to obtain financial benefit at the rescuer’s expense. Nowadays, video and audio recordings are taken of the victim confirming the innocence of the rescuer, before the “good Samaritan” steps in to help.
An equally sad story has emerged about the street-cleaner that defied the odds and stopped to help. She was offered a reward by the local government. Initially she did not want to accept the reward, because she felt that she was merely doing what is right. But then she was accused of seeking fame by turning down the reward. So she decided to accept the reward and give the money to the parents to pay for the medical bills of the severely injured child. Hounded by the media for her unselfish act, she has fled from the city back to her home-town: the one who was the most unselfish now stands accused of seeking sensationalism and self-interest. How ironic is that?