Season 2 True Crime

Little Yue Yue – Mind Your Own Business

This week, Nikki and Kalai take on the Death of Wang Yue, a case from China that will infuriate and disappoint you. This episode will make you take a closer look at the bystander effect, and how one should respond to people in need.

Sources: NPR, SCMP, BBC, Wikipedia

They called her Little Yue Yue

Wang Yue also known as “Little Yue Yue” was a two-year-old Chinese girl who was run over by two vehicles on the afternoon of 13 October 2011 on a narrow road in Foshan, Guangdong.

As she lay bleeding on the street for more than seven minutes, at least 18 onlookers walked around her body and ignored her.

She was eventually helped by a female rubbish scavenger and sent to a hospital for treatment, but died because of her injuries eight days later.

The CCTV recording of the incident was uploaded onto the Internet, and it quickly went viral in China and overseas.

Many people believe this to be indicative of the moral decline in contemporary Chinese society. 

However, some people thought that the high-profile Peng Yu incident in 2006 caused people to fear getting in trouble for helping in Wang’s case. 

What happened with the Peng Yu incident was a person or a “Good Samaritan” who was trying to help an injured accident victim was accused of having injured the victim himself and was forced to pay for the victim’s medical bill.

Several regional Good Samaritan laws were passed following the incident and in 2017 a new national Good Samaritan law came into force to prevent such situations throughout the country.

Wang, who was two years old, wandered away from her home in Foshan while her mother was quickly collecting laundry during a thunderstorm. 

CCTV captured the child wandering into a narrow but busy wet market street. Within a few moments of her appearance on the screen, Wang was struck by a white van and knocked to the ground and under the van’s front wheels.

The van driver pauses but does not get out. After a moment, he pulls forward slowly, at which time his rear wheel drives over Wang. The driver moves on.

In the video, even though you could see Wang crying and moving, meaning she was obviously alive, at least 18 people walked past her and didn’t even try to assist her, some pausing to stare before moving on. In that time, another large truck runs over Wang’s legs with both front and back tires. She is eventually helped by a female garbage scavenger, Chen Xianmei

It is apparent in the video that Wang is crying, holding her head, moving her arms and legs, and bleeding. 

Wang’s parents Wang Chichang and Qu Feifei chose not to blame anyone besides themselves for their daughter’s death. Qu said, “Granny Chen represents the best of human nature, it’s the nicest and most natural side of us.”

The drivers of both vehicles were detained by police in the days after the incident on suspicion of causing a traffic accident.

On May 26, 2012, Hu Jun, who was driving the first minivan that ran over Wang, was put on trial in Foshan and charged with Wang’s death.

He pleaded guilty to traffic crimes, but not homicide. On September 6, 2012, Hu was convicted of involuntary homicide and sentenced to 3+12 years in prison. The sentence was lightened because he turned himself in and had paid part of Wang’s medical expenses.

According to China Daily, “At least 10 Party and government departments and organizations in Guangdong, including the province’s Commission on Politics and Law, The Women’s Federation, the Academy of Social Sciences, and the Communist Youth League, have started discussions on punishing those who refuse to help people who clearly need it.”

Officials of Guangdong province, along with many lawyers and social workers, also held three days of meetings in the provincial capital of Guangzhou to discuss the case.

It was reported that various lawmakers of the province were drafting a “Good Samaritan” law, which would “penalize people who fail to help in a situation of this type and indemnify them from lawsuits if their efforts are in vain.” Legal experts and the public debated the idea ahead of discussions and a legislative push. On 1 August 2013, the nation’s first Good Samaritan law took effect in Shenzhen.

While most attention was focused on the passers-by who failed to assist Wang, a British journalist interviewed other shopkeepers in the Foshan hardware market who were just meters away yet failed to respond.

He found that the area where the incident occurred was inhabited mainly by internal migrant families (the Wangs had migrated from Shandong seven years earlier). In the writer’s view, there was little sense of community and little in common there. One resident noted, “It is quite sad that we don’t really talk to each other.”

While media outlets reported on the perceived Chinese apathy in the aftermath of Wang Yue’s death, another incident occurred in Hangzhou when a Chinese woman attempted suicide by drowning in a lake, while local Chinese bystanders gathered at the edge of the lake to watch.

After noticing that no one was attempting to rescue the woman, an Uruguayan visitor to China named Maria Fernanda Gomez Arregui swam into the water and saved the woman from drowning. 

Chinese government officials announced that Maria Fernanda would receive a cash reward of 3000 yuan for her heroic display of “traditional Chinese virtues”.

The rescue achieved a high profile after the media presented photographs by Wang Ronggui to contrast with the lack of action of bystanders in the death of Wang Yue and several other similar deaths that occurred around the same time.

Later incidents in China have been continuously compared to the death of Wang Yue. In December 2012, a five-year-old boy named Yan Zhe received crush injuries from a minibus in Zheijang province. Despite the pleas of the child’s mother, other drivers and passers-by refused to help. He was eventually taken to a hospital but died on the way. 

On the other hand, there have also been numerous reported instances in Chinese and occasionally foreign media of passers-by successfully helping those who are critically injured or in need of assistance

Wang Yue. Fotoage from CCTV in one of the stores in the street

People walking around and ignoring Wang Yue

An image from the Twitter-like Chinese site Weibo.com shows a composite image of the toddler’s mother, Qu Feifei (left); her rescuer, Chen Xianmei (top right) and Wang Yue.

Wang Yue in the hospital where she died seven days laters because of her injuries

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