Politics

Soul-searching in China

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China's roads are among the world's most dangerous, with traffic laws and safety widely flouted, as almost 70,000 people died in road accidents in 2009, or around 190 fatalities a day, according to police statistics.

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As people in Foshan, China, promised to wage war on indifference, police there have arrested two drivers for the hit-and-run death of a toddler that sparked national outcry and a wave of soul-searching over unwillingness to help strangers.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reports that thousands marched in the city of Guangzhou, with a smaller gathering in nearby Foshan city, where toddler Wang Yue, better known as "Yue Yue," died several days after the hit-and-run incident a week ago. The girl, who wandered away from her parents near their shop, was struck twice by a van then left bleeding in the street as 18 people passed her by and did nothing. In the end, a garbage collector saw the girl and called for help, moving her out of the road where she had been hit by a second car. The entire horrifying scene was captured on security cameras and the video has started a nationwide discussion about Chinese people's reluctance to help strangers, or assist in emergencies.

Some blame the government system of repression, others a faulty court system that can assign guilt and financial responsibility to good Samaritans. Still others say China's relentless pursuit of wealth has simply created a mean society.

In a column for the Guardian on Saturday, Chinese author Zhang Lijia said the answer is complex and the situation was created by a combination of factors.

"To drag China out of its moral crisis will be a long battle," wrote Zhang. "The pressing question is how to make people act in cases of emergency and the solution is law."