Oct 24, 2011  •  In Asian, Personal

The Death of Yue Yue: Another Perspective

Last week, audiences all around the world were shocked by the viral video footage of a 2-year-old girl, Yue Yue, who was run over twice near a hardware market in Foshan, China, only to be ignored by as many as 18 passerbys before receiving help.


(image source)

Yue Yue remained in critical condition for the next few days, but eventually succumbed to her injuries and died on the 20th.

I could not bring myself to watch the video because I knew that I would get overly upset and shed bucketfuls of tears. (Ever since becoming a mother myself, cruel and heart-wrenching stories of babies and children have always had this effect…and I’m sure that I am not alone.)

Today, I read that the two drivers responsible for the hit-and-run have been arrested. And while I am grateful that justice is being served, and still remain angry at those who chose to ignore the injured child, I could not help but think back to the conversation I had with my in-laws regarding this tragic event…

Upon first hearing of the 18 people who walked past Yue Yue without helping, I experienced a mixture of fury and sadness at the human condition. I was reminded of Kitty Genovese and wondered how the bystander effect could apply to even a 2-year-old child.

But when discussing the story over dinner last week, my in-laws told me a couple of things that set things in perspective:

  1. Due to the underdeveloped legal infrastructure in China, there have been many cases in the past where a good samaritan would step in to a stranger’s aid, only to be blamed and charged with the crime they had never committed.
  2. Additionally, local laws dictate that if a person is found guilty of devastatingly injuring another person(s), they are responsible for all of the medical bills and expenses for the rest of the victim’s life. This, coupled with the fact that the majority of the Chinese population — especially in poorer regions like Foshan where Yue Yue lived — would not be able to afford to financially provide medical care, leads people to leave victims for dead rather than help. That is, they would rather go to jail for manslaughter than be in debt (and become a burden and embarrassment to their families) for the rest of their lives.

This isn’t to say that I — or even my in-laws — believe what the 18 passerbys did was right. Neither am I justifying their actions (or lack thereof, in this case).

But now that I have been informed these cultural factors, I can better understand what had happened.

One sad result of Yue Yue’s case has been the finger-pointing and blame that has been running amok in the various websites and news outlets that have run the story. “This is why I hate Chinese people,” is a common one. But I hope that at least one person who has felt the need to blame an entire city, state, or race for the tragic event will read this post, and realize that things are not always so black-and-white.

15 Responses to “The Death of Yue Yue: Another Perspective”

  1. Kim:

    My question is, “where the heck were her parents”? I work in a clinic and children wander off all the time! This could have possibly been avoided if someone were tending to this child.

    • I’m pretty sure she was working at the time. I’ve heard this question asked by many people, and I can only guess that it’s because we’re not used to the style of parenting that others around the world practice. For example, if you watch the movie “Babies” there are children taking care of babies, and toddlers just playing amongst themselves. I know that my mother let me and my sister run around the neighborhood by ourselves from the time we were able to walk well. To me, it seems that Yue Yue’s mother had brought her to work, and trusted that the small community would help keep an eye on her (which unfortunately did not work out so well in this case).

  2. David:

    I read that Yue’s mother had just brought her back from kindergarten; Yue’s mother was hanging the washing when Yue’s elder brother went out to play, leaving the door open. Yue was able to slip out (and is believed to have been looking for her brother) when she evidently got lost and wandered into harm’s way. I’ve really been unsettled by the (growing) number of people blaming the girl’s poor parents–as if they haven’t suffered enough; any honest person charged with guardianship over children can admit that their are countless opportunities for accidents to happen when they’re that small. Mercifully, these accidents are rare, but it only takes a moment. My thoughts are with her parents; I can’t imagine they’ll ever be able to recover. Bless you, Yue Yue.

  3. David:

    *there, not their.

  4. Shari:

    Just like you, I assumed that it could only be pure evil that would lead to the kind of deliberate refusal to help that was evident in the video (I have not watched it, but several relatives have), and I was all set to blame the country and its people. It was my husband who explained to me the many, many cases where people have tried to do the right thing and been punished for it by being accused afterwards. Even worse, while in America you could face a trial and possible jail time for bringing a false allegation, in China there are absolutely no legal repercussions for accusing someone when they didn’t do anything. This makes it very easy for people to try and capitulate on the kindness of strangers, which is not seen as kindness by many in that culture, but as “gullibility”.

    So like you, while I don’t think it was right to leave her there (I know I couldn’t have, regardless of the possible consequences), I certainly can understand why it happened, and will continue to happen.

  5. Wow. I didn’t know that about the Chinese legal structure. I’m so sad that Yue YUe had to lose her life this way.

  6. Oh goodness, this type of event really tears my heart out. It makes me sick to think that people can just walk by that without running to aide. I know what I would do in that situation, but at the same time, I don’t blame anyone but the individuals who hit the girl. Its so difficult because I have no idea what was going on in the bystanders minds. For example, in this area a few months ago, we were put on alert that if we saw a baby on the side of the road or even an infant car seat with what looked like an infant in it laying in the middle of the road, to NOT pull over. Call 911 and continue driving. An individual had been putting a fake child in the road to get people to stop and car jack their vehicles. I also remember the FIRST time I was anywhere near a “ghetto” area of a city was when I was in high school (I’m from a small town in Idaho). I was in Atlanta, Georgia and looked down a street to see a man beating up a woman. No joke, the words that came out of my mouth were, “Is that real?” and when the men that were with me saw it, they immediately ran to her aide. I finally followed when the shock wore off. So I don’t know what those people felt or saw or thought. I know that if I had seen that child, and knew she needed help, no matter what the chances of me getting prosecuted were, I would have helped. But I don’t know what happened in their minds, and I don’t point fingers. It’s just a very tragic event all the way around. It truly brakes my heart.

  7. I was so sad to hear that this poor little girl had passed away. I don’t believe anyone has a right to point their fingers at the parents. Nobody knows their situation. The only ones to blame here are the two people that hit this child and drove off. They ran over another human being, they were guilty and the fear of being blamed and stuck with the medical bills is validated as they are the guilty party. The only good in this is that there were the surveillance cameras to catch what happened and aid in apprehending the hit and run drivers.

    RIP Yue Yue. Her family is in my thoughts.

  8. that is just heartbreaking. i don’t know what to say.

  9. I read about this story last week and it just broke my heart. I’m thankful that your provided the explanations from your in-laws. Like you and them, I don’t believe that makes it right at all, but it helps me to better understand how such a thing could happen.

  10. Lina:

    I’m happy that you did not see it, it may haunt you. i can’t take the images of that little girl from my mind. i don’t think either that the law structure may justify those people’s behavior but i think they could at least make a call to the emergency or police
    I live in Vietnam, and i’ve been told that when you cause a car accident, the victim “better” be dead, to avoid medicals fees. That’s why, there have been many cases where the driver runs over the victim, to make sure he/she is dead. We can see in the video that the first van speed up when getting near to Yue Yue. I think that’s the same thing in poor countries and poor regions of China. That’s just so sad.
    I’m sorry if what i’m about to say will disturb many, but I wish she died on the spot, right away, she would not suffer that much. That is just too much for a 2 year old.

  11. I’m so glad you shared this. I didn’t dare watch the video either as I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle, but what a tragedy that if a Good Samaritan have stepped in, they would have been burdened or blamed instead of praised.
    It definitely helps a western mind better understand.

  12. Susan L:

    Thanks for sharing some of the factors that make this situation complicated. I remember last year, a missionary from our church explained the difficulties he had in living in China, because of the nature of the legal infrastructure. He said there are so many stories of people accusing others and getting them arrested when they were just trying to be a good samaritan. After reading this post, I remember his words and his frustration with some of the laws and people’s exploitation of them.

  13. Pastan:

    now, im confident to say even knowing what trouble it may bring me, id do anything to save that poor todlers life.

    but given the situation i grew up in a country whose legal system runs that way i would probably do the same like the 18 passers.

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