A video of a child being crushed by a minibus and ignored by passers-by has ignited a new bout of soul-searching in China with web users asking on Thursday whether ethics are slipping amid rapid change.
The footage, which police told state news agency Xinhua is authentic, shows five-year-old Yan Zhe crossing the street alone in front of the parked bus which knocks him over as it pulls away.
Several passers-by walk on while others stand around, and when one woman gesticulating for help rushes over to the driver of an approaching car, it backs away.
It was ten minutes before another motorist took Yan Zhe to hospital, but the boy died on the way, Xinhua reported.
The accident in eastern Zhejiang province echoed a similar case in 2011, when a toddler fatally struck by two vehicles lay on the street while at least 18 people walked past.
“This soundless image again stirs up a huge wave deep in our hearts, questions our innermost being, is there a conscience there?” a provincial news anchor said after the latest incident.
Xinhua said the minibus driver - who did not flee the scene - agreed to pay Yan's parents 710 000 yuan ($110 000) compensation while they would not press charges.
Users of China's Twitter-like service Sina Weibo said the boy's death symbolised deteriorating ethics in the country.
“This society is completely deformed, there are no words to describe the apathy among people, how long can this kind of China go on?” said one.
Another user posted: “The moral fibre of the Chinese people is trash”.
But some focused on the individuals involved. “I feel the guardian bears major responsibility. How can you let a small child play on the street by himself? The driver also kind of lacks humanity,” said one.
An unnamed local government official told Xinhua that the accident differed from last year's because passers-by “actively helped” and the driver did not leave the scene.
In that incident, in the southern province of Guangdong province, two-year-old “Yue Yue” was finally picked up by a rubbish collector who moved her to the kerb.
At the time provincial leader Wang Yang was quoted in Xinhua as saying: “We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet.” - Sapa-AFP