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 questioning whether ethics are slipping amid rapid change in the country.
The footage, which police told state news agency Xinhua was authentic, shows five-year-old Yan Zhe crossing the street in front of the parked bus, which knocks him over as it pulls away.
A woman, believed to be the boy's mother, is in tears as she rushes to an approaching car for help, only for the vehicle to back away. Several passers-by walk on while others stand around.
Left for dead ... a man walks away after a boy was hit by a minibus. Photo: Screen grab
It was 10 minutes before another motorist took Yan to hospital, but the boy died on the way, Xinhua reported.
The accident in eastern Zhejiang province echoed a similar case last year, when a two-year-old girl was fatally struck by two vehicles.
In that incident in Guangdong Province, the toddler was left for dead by 20 passers-by at a busy market before a street cleaner came to her aid. She died a week later in hospital.
"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.
The latest recording was posted on Monday by Wang Yujing on his Sina Weibo account, a Twitter-like service in China, the Shanghai Daily News reported.
The video was forwarded more than 22,000 times in just a few hours.
Yan had gone to the food market in Tongxiang City with his mother and was playing on the street when the accident occurred, the Shanghai Daily News said. The boy's parents had been working in Tongxiang for several years, and Yan was their only child.
The minibus driver - who did not flee the scene - agreed to pay Yan's parents 710,000 yuan ($107,000) compensation while they would not press charges.
The driver said he met an acquaintance in the market and chatted for a while but did not notice the boy when he started his vehicle, the Shangai Daily News said.
The driver said he felt he had hit something and got out to check, only to find the boy lying under the right wheel, bleeding.
"I was stunned at the time and thought nothing, I quivered all over," Gao told the newspaper.
Sina Weibo users 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.
- AFP, with smh.com.au