Asia-Pacific

China toddler: Passers-by were 'shameful'

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Media captionThe distressing footage caused outcry when it was shown on television

Other than the two chalk circles marked "1" and "2" on the road, there was little to suggest anything out of the ordinary.

The hardware stores selling irons, light fittings and taps were all open. Shopkeepers sat around chatting to each other.

But what happened on a covered street of this huge whole-sale market last week shocked China.

Caught on a surveillance camera, two-year-old Wang Yue was playing on the street. A small van loomed into shot. It ran over the young girl. But while briefly stopping, the van then continued driving.

Then another vehicle struck the girl. At least 18 people passed the seriously injured toddler before finally an old woman came to her rescue.

A shopkeeper close to where the incident took place said she had been sickened when she saw the footage.

"Every time I watch it, my heart breaks," said Hu Haiou. "I catch the news every night to see if she'll survive."

"The people who walked by were shameful."

Another shopkeeper, Chen Guilin, said it had been raining hard the night of the incident.

"The raindrops sounded like drumbeats on the roof," she said. "We had no idea what happened outside."

Moral 'decline'

The incident happened last week in Guangdong province - a place where China's economic reforms first began.

As an export hub, it has powered the country's remarkable growth.

But now many are asking in the rush to get rich whether people have lost their moral bearings.

"The reason why everyone worships money is because we have lost our faith in religion," said one man in the city of Guangzhou. "Money is everything."

Another woman said: "The government has focused on economic development. But it's done little to promote morality."

"It sad to see this happening - morality is declining every day."

Following a public outcry, the authorities are now mulling a new law that would make it illegal for people to ignore those in need of help.

While it may never be enacted, it shows that the authorities are aware of the public anger surrounding the case.

At the same time, China is reflecting on the fate of a little girl.

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