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Home  /  Inside China  /  The 'Xiao Yue Yue' incident as a source of complete despair and a glimpse of hope
The 'Xiao Yue Yue' incident as a source of complete despair and a glimpse of hope print version
The chilling video of little YueYue being run over and ignored by passengers cannot be ignored, but while some Western journalists are linking the event to a corrupted regime and Chinese personage are promoting Good Samaritan Laws, the widespread emotional response to the incident throughout China is also worth acknowledgement and discussion.

China is still recovering, trying to understand what went wrong in social values. Many shocking incidents come and go in China, as corruption, socioeconomic gaps within society and lack of infrastructure can often lead to 'interesting' events in such a huge country, but the 'little Yue Yue' incident (xiao yueyue shijian 小悦悦事件) isn't so clear-cut; it doesn't allow people just to point fingers at corrupted official or evil criminals, it leads people to introspection.

On October 13 in the city of Foshan, in the southern Guangdong province, a two years old toddler, Wang Yue (nicknamed 'Yue Yue') was hit by a vehicle. But the hit-and-run accident was only the introduction to a shocking scene, in which 18 pedestrian passengers ignored the injured child and walked away, before Chen Xiamei, a 57 years old woman, noticed the child while she was collecting trash, picked Yue Yue up and looked for her parents. Not the hit-and-run nor the lack of parent supervision (her mother was collecting laundry and had left the child by the sideway) are the main title of this event, which in other incidents could be more than enough to evoke controversy, but rather the cold indifference (冷漠 lengmo) of the passengers. What made this event more emotion stirring is the fact that the scene was video-recorded by surveillance market cameras (watch here), turning the guts of Chinese viewers upside-down, and making their throat very very soar. 

What went wrong? How come nobody noticed the injured child? Is it a matter of lack of attention? Does it have to do with the Foshan culture? Are Chinese lacking minimal compassion? Does this have to do with the soul-corrupting modernity or rather the fear of authorities? Or perhaps the passengers could not know for sure that the child was indeed seriously injured?

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Yue Yue is being remembered in Tianjin, through candle lighting and opposing cold apathy '冷漠绝拒'
(photos by CFP)

It seems that Western media, in some cases, is taking a ride on the guilt and shame experienced by Chinese, using it to condemn other, irrelevant, issues in Chinese society and politics. Some reporters blame the communist regime for making people so scared to take act and assist a peer in need (which is rather contradicting the fact that the same regime is often associated with repressing individualism and emphasizing collective awareness). Some reports made an even more far fetched link between the incident and a culture that prefers boys over girls (重男轻女 zhongnan qingnu), claiming that a dying female baby isn't such a tragedy in China. The unsophisticated and exaggerated manner in which some journalists explain this incident by uncorrelated cultural phenomena is astonishing at times.

Still, this incident cannot be ignored nor seem as an event isolated from Chinese society and culture. The question of value changes is discussed in China continuously, and in this case it seems that it reaches maximum complexity. On one hand, the cold modern values, neglecting the compassion and social awareness promoted by Chinese tradition and Confucianism, but on the other hand, the positive issues of child safety, parent care and better legislation could also be seen as symptoms of modernity and social development (the fact that in another recent incident, a foreign tourist rescued an old woman, who jumped into Hangzhou's West Lake, and not one of the Chinese in the scene, also adds to the notion in China that something is deeply wrong with Chinese thinking in such cases). Thus, this case isn't a clear battle of tradition vs. modern, but rather a result of a confused society, socioeconomic gaps, and a value transformation course, that sometimes leaves people stuck in the middle - Lacking collective awareness while still not enjoying individual stability.

Some Chinese netizens, when discussing the incident, claimed that picking up and injured child can be scary; what if she dies? How can one be certain he/she won't be blamed of the child's death and be extorted? These thoughts of not having confidence in the system, to the extent of not allowing oneself get into a mess of helping the other (no wonder the woman who did attempt to rescue Yue Yue was a poor peasant that had 'nothing to lose'), should be rethought by officials. Suggestions for legislation of Good Samaritan Laws, which will protect aiding bystanders, have been expressed throughout China. No official moves have been taken thus far, but government officials are wondering how to reward good deeds and punish cold apathy. Meanwhile, Chen Xiamei is expected to receive a reward of 25,000 Rmb.

What is worth acknowledging here is also the willingness of the Chinese society to take guilt and to introspect. It can be questioned if such passenger indifference could have taken place in other countries, but the emotional involvement of so many Chinese, the wide-ranging discussion throughout the media and the pondering about new legislations are also a sign of a culture that isn't deeply indifferent, but rather very emotional and, at times, also constructive when dealing with tragedies. Citizen response shows that apathy is strongly condemned by both officials and commoners. How much does the 'little Yue Yue' event reflect the face of Chinese society can be discussed limitlessly, as well as how the strong sense of empathy, experienced when watching the painful Yue Yue video, can be translated into positive initiative when witnessing 'live' incidents.

小悦悦事件引社会反思 - 'Little Yue Yue' incident has led to society introspection

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