Soul-searching in China


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.



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."