Anger and debate over hit-and-run toddler Wang Yue

By Martin Yip
BBC News

image captionWang Yue's plight provoked a storm of anger and shock on the internet

Anger and debate have continued in the Chinese media and on the internet after the toddler left injured in a road after a hit-and-run accident died.

Wang Yue, nicknamed "Little Yueyue" by China's netizens and press outlets, was run over by two vans last week in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

Lying hurt in the road, she was ignored by 18 passers-by until an elderly lady came to her rescue.

Many netizens and commentators have lashed out at the apparent coldness and detachment shown in the incident.

But others have argued that ordinary citizens risk paying a price if they help strangers.

Some have also criticised Wang Yue's parents for failing to fulfil their own responsibilities.

Wang Yang, the Communist Party chief of Guangdong province, said the incident was a wake-up call for everybody.

"We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet," he told a party committee meeting.

Rip-off fears

The hit-and-run incident took place on 13 October in the city of Foshan. Wang Yue was then transferred to a hospital in neighbouring Guangzhou, the provincial capital, where she died on 21 October.

Security camera footage - showing how events played out - was used in numerous Chinese television broadcasts.

Reports suggest that donations - to Wang Yue's family and also the rubbish collector who helped her - have been pouring in.

Millions of internet users have posted messages on Weibo services - China's equivalent of Twitter - the majority decrying people's apathy and cruelty.

"You should have been running around on this planet in joy," says a netizen named Zhao Xiaoqi, "but you fled for heaven because of this world's cruelty".

Another internet user, nicknamed "Sima the Photographer", says the death of Wang Yue is "a shame for all fellow countrymen that can never be washed away".

Others have expressed anger at the little girl's parents.

"What kind of parents are they when they leave a two-year-old kid to play on her own for some 20 minutes?" asked one internet user.

Yet there are plenty of comments defending the passers-by, saying they would not get involved in a similar incident.

"Those who try to help the grandpas, grandmas and little kids will be ripped off if all we have to protect the saviour is human ethics," says one internet user nicknamed "Speedy Cat".

Another user says that people either choose not to help or step in only if they have made sure they have evidence to prove they were not responsible.

He was referring to an incident back in 2007, where a man in the eastern city of Nanjing was sued for compensation by an old lady with a broken hip who he helped - but who then went on to accuse him of causing the injury.

'Dare to do good'

In the media too, debate has focussed on how such an incident occurred.

Celebrated Chinese film director Feng Xiaogang spoke out, saying apathy was deeply-rooted in society.

"Many people cannot understand... and they ask: 'What's happening with our people?'," he said. "In fact, it was all because of poor communication in the past that such incidents were not revealed."

Prof Ding Xueliang, a social science expert at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said he believed China' s political environment had "no tolerance" for people with a social conscience.

Speaking to BBC Chinese, Prof Ding said that since the 1990s people who had voiced concern over social injustices - such as AIDS rights activist Hu Jia and Zhao Lianhai, father of a melamine-contaminated milk victim - had suffered for it, thus discouraging people from caring about others.

A commentary on the website of national newspaper Guangming Daily suggest further that the root problem was China's neglect of "moral civilisation" to focus on material life.

It appealed to the government "to establish a system that praises ones virtues and punishes ones bad deeds, so that people will dare to do good things".

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