A horrifying incident on the road has led to some soul searching online as Chinese netizens try to figure out how a woman was hit by one car and left alone on the street as dozens passed by seemingly without a care before being run over by another vehicle and killed.
Surveillance camera footage of the incident, captured at a busy intersection in Zhumadian, Henan province on the evening of April 21st, went viral on Chinese social media yesterday. Web users watched in horror as a woman standing in the middle of a crosswalk was blindsided by a taxi, leaving her lying motionless on the street.
Their horror quickly turned to outrage as bystanders streamed past the woman without checking on her and without stopping traffic (though some did call emergency services), leading to her being crushed to death by an SUV about a minute later.
A number of competing theories have emerged online regarding this all-too-familiar tragedy, some blaming the accident on the cold indifference of Chinese passersby who have been taught through experience not to help strangers in need. Others have instead blamed the woman herself, arguing that she was either attempting to commit suicide or trying to scam any would-be rescuers who came to her aid (noting that once in the video the woman is seen lifting her head to look at bystanders on the street corner).
In recent years, the phenomenon of pengci has become more and more prevalent in China as down-on-their-luck swindlers purposely throw themselves in front of vehicles, hoping to earn a big payday by extorting drivers. While some netizens blamed pengci practitioners for the drastic lack of Good Samaritan spirit in Chinese society, others instead pointed to the law.
“To tell the truth, If I came across a similar situation where someone was in need of help, I would call emergency services, but I wouldn’t do anything else. As for why? Ask the Nanjing grand justice! Fuck his mom,” writes one Weibo user.
Here the netizen is referring to the infamous 2006 case of Peng Yu, a Nanjing man who helped an old injured woman get to the hospital, only to be sued for his troubles with the judge reasoning that he would only help the woman if he was in fact the one responsible. For the last decade, this case has been used again and again as an explanation for the lack of Good Samaritans in China — even after it was revealed six years later that Peng actually DID push that old woman off a bus.
For example, the case was used to explain the tragic death of “Little Yue Yue,” a two-year-old girl who was run over and left clinging to life in a Foshan back alley in 2011, overlooked by at least 18 passersby. Finally, a female trash collector saw her and called for help. The little girl was sent to the hospital where she died eight days later.
One Weibo user explained the kind of apathy that helped kill Yue Yue and this Zhumadian woman like this: “The law does not protect good people, it only helps the bad. Good people do not want to become bad, so they can only be passersby.”
While some online denounced indifferent passersby, others agreed with this netizen’s sentiment, admitting that they too would likely not have come to the woman’s aid — and that doesn’t make them a bad person.
In response, web users are also once again calling for stronger Good Samaritan laws to be put in place to help protect those heroes who assist strangers in need at their own risk. In recent years, localities (like Shanghai) have been introducing Good Samaritan laws, but it’s much easier to change the law than to change people’s thinking.
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat