‘Nanjing Judge’ Blamed for Apathy in Toddler’s Hit and Run

Outrage has spread rapidly across China over a hit-and-run where a 2-year-old girl was run over twice by vans and left bleeding in the middle of narrow market street. Eighteen pedestrians and cyclists passed right by the little girl before one woman finally stopped to pull the toddler aside and call for help.

The girl Wang Yue (nicknamed YueYue) is in critical condition at the Guangzhou Military District General Hospital. Images of her on a respirator were in most of the Chinese press today. Despite numerous microblogs from YueYue’s mother about her daughter’s improving condition (regaining sensation in her limbs), The Guangzhou Daily quoted the hospital’s head of neurosurgery as saying the girl is likely to remain in a vegetative state if she survives.

The two drivers involved in the hit-and-run are in police custody. One was arrested by police and the other turned himself in on Monday.

A security camera video of the incident has gone viral in China and ignited much heated discussion and soul-searching across the country. China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, has created and organized all the comments under the hash tag “Please end the cold-heartedness.”

Web user “60 Red Setting Sun” exclaimed, “The Chinese citizens have finally arrived at their most immoral moment!” Another user “Being a Natural Person” wrote, “Truly very painful”

The most popular regional paper The NanFang Daily wrote an editorial about “gathering the scraps of China’s conscience.”

With the introspection comes who or what to blame for the degradation of “Chinese morality” and there seems to be a consensus about the perceived source of the current state of apathy. One netizen wrote, “Don’t blame the passersby; it was a Nanjing judge that killed this little girl.” [YueYue is still alive.]

The “Nanjing judge” refers to an infamous 2006 incident where a young man named Peng Yu went to the aid of an elderly woman who had fallen down on the street in the eastern city of Nanjing. At the woman’s request, Peng helped take her to the hospital only to have the woman turn around and accuse him for being the person who knocked her down. A Nanjing judge then ruled that “common sense” suggested that Peng only took the woman to the hospital because he was guilty and ordered him to pay her medical expenses.

The story was picked up by the Chinese media and quickly became a cautionary tale for many Chinese: no good deed goes unpunished.

In 2009 it was reported that an elderly man, also in Nanjing, fell while getting off a bus. Usually this wouldn’t be news except for the fact that he was only helped up by onlookers after he himself bore responsibility and announced to them that he had fallen on his own.

As news of the hit-and-run spread across the web, another Sina Weibo user “Rushing Forward” wrote, “It can only be said that the [woman who help YueYue] doesn’t read news on the internet.”

The China Daily reported that in September the Ministry of Health went as far as to issue guidelines on how to help elderly individuals who had fallen down.  “Don’t rush to lend a hand to the elderly after seeing them fall over. It should be handled by different measures in different situations,” the ministry warned This includes determining person’s physical condition, determining the cause of the accident, and making a plan for rescue workers all before deciding to lend a hand.

There are, however, still some Good Samaritans around in China. Just last Thursday in the eastern city of Hangzhou, almost at the same time YueYue was left bleeding in the middle of that market street, a woman dove into the city’s famous West Lake to rescue another drowning woman while others looked on.  Later when the commentators were heaping praise on the rescuer’s bravery, they couldn’t ignore the fact that she wasn’t Chinese, but a visiting American tourist.