The horrifying death of the little girl who was run over twice and then ignored by passers by in Guangzhou has received fascinating response from around the world, but particularly in China.

The excellent China Smack blog translates some of the reaction, much of it, from outraged Chinese:

The driver should die. The child’s parents have some responsibility that cannot be shirked, especially the mother.

The passers-by who ignored and injured the child are as low as cats and dogs, simply unbelievable. This video shakes the soul of every conscientious person.

We do occasionally hear of cases around the world where cries for help are ignored (sometimes known as the bystander effect), but some of the other reactions on the web suggest that there is something in the attitude of the Chinese that goes beyond that. Take these reactions, for example:

With regards to this incident, we first cannot blame the driver, who makes a living with his physical labor. We cannot close our eyes and demand that he bear too much responsibility, as he didn’t mean to hit someone either, and it was definitely very difficult to have noticed [the child], and afterward he was conflicted too, only he was afraid of bearing the burden of compensation and that’s why he chose to run away. I can sympathize with him. After all, running away means still having a life to live while not running might mean his life is completely ruined. Though running away means his conscience is to be condemned, how important is one’s conscience for the rabble where simply getting enough to eat is already a major accomplishment? Not betraying one’s conscience in reality is a kind of spiritual luxury.

The people who passed by are also not worthy of being blamed. To conclude that they are cold-blooded for turning a blind eye is a bit arbitrary. If it were a small cat or a small dog struggling on the ground, I think they would definitely give their attention, even kneel down to investigate the injuries, maybe even carrying them home to nurse them back to health. But when it is a child, everyone pretends they don’t see, it is always like this, almost without exception. This is not about whether or not a person is cold-blooded or not cold-blooded, but it is definitely about there being a very serious problem in society. These days, it is better to be less involved than more involved. Getting involved may very well mean getting majorly screwed. There are really too many of these kind of precedents, and everyone has silently evolved from these observations. No one is more qualified than anyone else to criticize.

And this:

Seeing this kind of thing, I can only describe it as heart-breaking, but I would be numb/indifferent like those 18 people…because I am a normal person!!!

Ironically enough, only a matter of days ago, an American tourist in China demonstrated the difference in attitudes.

To western eyes, some of the Chinese opinions about this are hard to believe.

One theory, expounded at Chinahush is that one cause of this attitude may be a lack of religion as we see, for example, expounded in the Christian credo to only do to others as you would have them do to yourself.

A commenter at Chinasmack has another theory that sounds to me as being entirely plausible:

You know there is one other reason, rooted a bit farther back in history, why people have no reactions to things like this.

About 40 years ago, during the Cultural Revolution, life for a lot of people just sucked. Central planned economy, nasty local officials, etc. There also wasn’t enough food for a long, long period of time.

It’s hard to get people to talk about it, but one thing I have heard talked about were the famines brought on by poor production and distribution of resources. This caused millions of people to starve. People took care of their own families above everything else, and, if they had to make decisions killed/ate their pets and committed infanticide if they had to.

That period of time has left its mark on the people here in ways that I don’t remember seeing in Hong Kong when I lived there. People ignore suffering because they’re desensitized to it and don’t want to get involved. It’s taxing and draining sometimes there isn’t anything you can do.

Whatever the reason, on the odd occasions when I have witnessed accidents in Australia, there has never been any shortage of strangers willing to help. It appears that this is one western custom that the Chinese really need to adopt.