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Mother, nation struggle along with Chinese toddler in hit-and-run video

By Steven Jiang, CNN
updated 1:05 AM EDT, Wed October 19, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Give Mom another chance to love you," the unconscious child's mother begs
  • Video showing child being ignored after grave injury rocks China
  • One passerby says, "Nobody else dared to touch her, how did I?"
  • The mother, Qu Feifei, wants to focus on the positive

Guangzhou, China (CNN) -- In a voice alternating between desperate and hopeful, Qu Feifei talked to her daughter continuously Tuesday afternoon through a window left ajar at the main military hospital in this southern Chinese city.

"Yueyue, give Mom another chance to love you, OK?" she finally begged, sobbing.

On the other side of the window, two-year-old Wang Yue -- affectionately known as Yueyue -- lay almost lifeless in bed inside the intensive care unit, with netting around her head and a respirator covering her small face.

The toddler was gravely injured in two successive hit-and-run incidents last Thursday not far from her father's hardware store in the nearby city of Foshan. When CNN visited the scene Tuesday evening, the blood stains had long gone but two circled numbers on the ground made with black markers clearly indicated the locations of both collisions.

Wang's condition remained critical, her brain showing little activity despite some earlier subtle movements in the lower body, her mother said.

Gruesome security camera footage of the accidents and the girl, lying in her own blood, ignored by more than a dozen passersby in a busy market has outraged the nation, stirring an emotional debate on the state of morality in a fast-changing society.

On Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, the story continued to be the No. 1 topic after generating more than 4.5 million posts along with a "stop apathy" online campaign. While the initial video went viral on Chinese Internet, state-run newspapers and television stations have since seized on the story, turning their spotlight on an unlikely hero as well as many villains.

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Chen Xianmei, a 58-year-old scavenger who was seen in the video moving Wang to safety, became an instant symbol of understated decency in a nation that many netizens say has become obsessed with climbing up the economic ladder. Camera crews chased Chen for interviews, while local government and businesses fought to award her money.

China: Hit-and-run video sparks outcry

"I didn't think of anything at the time," she told local reporters Sunday. "I just wanted to save the girl."

Chen's overnight celebrity, however, appeared too overwhelming for her. Her neighbors told CNN Tuesday night she had gone home to the countryside with her son.

Domestic media also tracked down some of the passersby in the video. While several denied seeing Wang lie on the ground, one pedestrian told Yangcheng Evening News that she noticed a girl crying next to a pool of blood.

"I went to the closest store and asked a young man there if she was his child, but he said no," the newspaper quoted her as saying. "Nobody else dared to touch her, how did I?"

"This is sort of classic bystander effect, where people have a diffusion of responsibility," Wendy Walsh, a psychologist based in Los Angeles, commented on CNN.

Wang's mother said in tears that she still couldn't comprehend the behavior of the passersby but wanted to focus on the positive.

"Granny Chen represents the best of human nature," Qu said of her daughter's rescuer at the scene. "It's the nicest and most natural side of us."

Despite rising concerns over China's declining morality after the story broke, humanity now shines at the Guangzhou hospital where Wang is being treated.

A steady procession of well-wishers surrounds her family throughout the day, offering gifts, money and support.

"I'm so grateful for all the nice people," Qu said. "Yueyue won't let them down.

"I know my girl -- she's strong and she'll wake up again."

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