The woman in the screenshot above has just jumped off a bridge onto a busy Chinese highway. In the video from which this screeshot was taken, it is clear the woman is still alive as she lies sprawled in the middle of the busy road. The video shows that not a single car stopped to help her for over a minute.
Three weeks after a similar story involving a little girl named Yue Yue sparked outrage around the world, this latest tragedy has reignited the debate in China on the so-called ‘moral failings’ of Chinese society.
The scene was filmed by the passenger of a car on a highway that circles the city of Chengdu, in the Sichuan province. It was posted online on November 2. In the video, you can hear another passenger calling emergency services for help. Around them, vehicles slow down, swerve to avoid the woman, but keep on going. The video was posted on the online forum Chengdu QQ and has generated over 73 pages of comments.
Last month, a little girl called Yue Yue was hit by a van and ignored by 18 passersby in the Chinese city of Foshan. Her story made national and international headlines. This type of incident has happened in China before, but also in other countries. In some countries, such as France, there are laws that punish those who fail to assist a person in danger, but not in China; many there are now calling for such laws. For our Observers in China, the country is currently going through a “moral crisis.”

“We close our eyes to block out others’ suffering, and our shame”

Yang Ruoying is a student in Ningbo, a city in the province of Zhejiang.
At first I didn’t want to talk about Yue Yue’s story because I was too ashamed of my nation. Would future generations ever forgive us? We close our eyes to block out others’ suffering, and our shame. If things go on like this, we’re going to lose our humanity.
I myself witnessed a similar scene. Last February, I went to Wal-Mart with some classmates. I was standing at the cash register when I saw a customer lying face first on the ground. Other people were walking over him quickly, as if he was contagious. No one enquired as to why he was there, no one went to ask him how he was doing. He was lying there in agony near a cashier, who didn’t stop working even for a second. I imagine that she didn’t want to get into trouble. As I called the police, another customer told me that it was none of my business. I tried to help the man on the floor, but someone else stopped me. The man ended up getting up by himself, hiding his bloodied face in his hand. Since then, I have had the feeling that my country has lost all sense of values.
Photo sent by Yang Ruoying.
The Chinese government launched an ad campaign on CNN and in New York’s Times Square to restore our nation’s image, but one of my Chinese friends studying in the US said he felt even more ashamed. For him, those ads were an implicit recognition of China’s moral failings, of everything that is wrong with our country.”

“These videos only show part of the story”

Pu Zhiquiang is a lawyer in Beijing.
It’s hard to only accuse the onlookers in these stories. There are reasons behind this behaviour. In 2006, a court in the city of Gulou, in Nanjing, sentenced a man called Peng Yu to a 40,000-yuan fine. [The woman accused Peng Yu of beating her, while he maintains that all he did was help her get to the hospital after she fell to the ground]. I understand that people are concerned of falling into this kind of trap. I think these videos only show part of the story. I am sure there are many others who would spontaneously help a person in need.
Chinese law does not punish those who do not assist a person in danger [although lawmakers are currently working on a law that would]. But I believe the problem is mainly a moral one. The limits between good and evil are less clear than they were before. The number one value in Chinese society today is hedonism.
There is a general climate that favours immorality. Government officials lie; leaders break their promises, etc… That being said, maybe the possibility of expressing ourselves online will spark an in-depth debate on our values.”

“We should value the notion of community and common good over that of individual happiness”

Cao Yuchen is a student in the city of Wuhan.
People express outrage on the Internet; they say they would have acted differently. In fact, no one is ready to act. Every Chinese person ought to be ashamed. We have to try to understand how we got to this point.
A lot of things are going wrong in the education system. We’re taught to be better than our classmates, to compete rather than work together. This promotes selfish behaviour. We should value the notion of community and common good over that of individual happiness.”

“People look out for themselves above anything else”

Liu Aixin is a professor in the city of Hefei.
It is undeniable that indifference is gaining steam and empathy is slowly disappearing. Try asking a pedestrian for directions – most won’t respond. The reasons for this indifference are complex. Morals have disappeared from our society. No belief is greater than that of the pursuit of material wealth and well being. People look out for themselves above anything else.
Personally, I have no power to change society, but I do give advice to my students. I tell them that, in this kind of case, it’s important to assist the person in danger, even if they may run the risk of facing false accusations.
People tend to blame others for their mistakes, but the real question is: what would I have done? It’s hard to say. Maybe nothing, like all the other pedestrians. It’s essential to ask this question of ourselves.”