BEIJING • An agonising traffic accident caught on surveillance cameras has reignited a debate in China about a lack of values in society.
The episode took place on April 21 in Zhumadian, a city in the central province of Henan.
The graphic video, which was posted online last Wednesday, shows a woman trying to cross a street on a crosswalk during what appears to be a red light for pedestrians. After crossing two lanes, she is struck by a taxi and tossed in the air before landing on the ground.
Then the light turns green for pedestrians. People walk by but do not help, nor do the drivers stopped at the light. The woman lifts her head, but the traffic resumes and she is soon run over by an SUV. She later died from her injuries.
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"If this case was only about the first driver running away after hitting the victim, it would just be a normal traffic accident," said Mr Zhang Xuebing, a lawyer and a former law professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai. "But the reason it's stirred up a heated discussion is because many onlookers on site didn't help the victim."
The original video has been viewed 30 million times. On Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media site, the original post has been shared 70,000 times and attracted 80,000 comments.
Some say the problem is a legal one. In 2006, a man in Nanjing who helped an injured woman get to a hospital was held financially responsible for her treatment on the grounds that he would only have helped if he had been responsible for the incident.
In addition, many Chinese are wary of helping because of numerous scams where people purport to be victims of an injury in order to extract compensation.
After the Nanjing case, many Chinese worry about the victims turning around to blame the helpers, and thus feel unable to offer direct help, said political scientist Dali Yang of the University of Chicago who has written about the lack of social trust in China.
But not all people were uncaring. Police said more than a dozen people had called the emergency rescue number, and some had offered help to the victim's family.
Police also said the two drivers of the vehicles that hit the woman had been found, and that compensation had been paid to the victim's family, but it was unclear who paid it.
Last year, a woman was stuffed into the trunk of a car and kidnapped while bystanders did nothing. Also last year, a woman was slashed in an alley, and no witnesses offered help.