A VIDEO showing a toddler being struck twice by vans and then ignored by passers-bys is sparking outrage in China and prompting soul-searching over why people didn't stop to help.
The two-year-old girl, identified as Wang Yue, is in a coma in a critical condition in the Guangzhou Military District General Hospital.
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.
CCTV shows the toddler wandering along a narrow market street in the city of Foshan when she is struck by a van. As several people walk or cycle by, the child lies in a pool of blood and is then hit by another van. All together, 18 people pass by before a trash collector finally picks up the child and gives her to a woman identified as her mother.
The incident, which happened last Thursday, is the latest heavily-publicised example of people in China in distress being ignored by fellow citizens, illustrating the corrosive effect China's headlong pursuit of economic growth has had on public ethics, according to reports.
"This brings a blow to our morality," news reader Yan Yanzi from Southern Television Guangdong said in a report that has been uploaded to video-sharing sites. "Where was your conscience? It is really disappointing news to watch, really disappointing," she said at the end of the report. The TV report has been viewed more than two million times on the internet television site of Youku.com Inc -- China's version of Twitter.
Sina Corp's Sina Weibo has drawn 4.4 million comments and organised them under the hashtag 'Please end the cold-heartedness'.
Police arrested the driver of the second van on the night of the accident and the driver of the first van, whose licence plate was obscured in the surveillance video, on Sunday. Some online comments have demanded harsh punishment for the drivers.
"The drivers should be shot. No to any cooling down," Zeng Ziming said in a posting.
The bitterest outrage, however, has been directed at those who ignored the injured child.
"Society is progressing, but human nature is regressing. These 18 passers-bys are afraid of getting themselves into trouble," said a Weibo posting under the name She De.