|Al Jazeera reports on the morality debate now raging in China [Warning: Images may disturb or offend some viewers]
A Chinese girl run over by two different vehicles and ignored by at least 18 passersby has died, state media said, in an incident that has shocked the nation and ignited public uproar over what some called a moral numbness seeping through society.
Both drivers who ran over the two year old have been arrested, but internet users have flooded microblogs decrying the apathy of the people who left her for dead, after graphic footage from a security camera of the incident went viral.
Wang Yue died of brain failure more than a week after the accident in Foshan in the far southern province of Guangdong, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.
"The hospital went all out and made utmost effort to save her. But ... her injuries were too severe and the treatment had no effect," Su Lei, the director of the Guangzhou Military Hospital's intensive care unit, told a news conference.
The surveillance video from the October 13 hit-and-run, aired by a television station, shows the girl run over by a van, which drives off leaving her to bleed on a narrow street.
More than a dozen people over the next seven minutes walk or drive past the girl on bicycles and she is subsequently run over by a second truck.
A woman then pulls the girl to the side of the street before her mother, a migrant worker, rushes into the frame.
China's economic boom and the growing disparity between the rich and poor have made changing social values a contentious topic, with some lamenting what they see as materialism replacing morals.
"We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet"
- Wang Yang, communist party chief
"Now people have become so selfish. So many people walked by but no one helped her because they didn't want to get into trouble," said Yang Yaying, a 21-year-old Beijing resident.
Wang's death quickly became the most talked about topic on China's popular Twitter-like microblog service, Sina's Weibo.
"I hope that this little angel who was discarded by society can act as a wake-up call to the nation about the importance of moral education," wrote one blogger called "Gongzai xiaoben".
"Hope you can find some love in heaven. This world is full of apathy," added "Winter space".
Xinhua said her father had received more than $42,280 to help pay for Wang's medical treatment, with donations flowing in from Chinese people all over the world.
Good Samaritans 'fined'
Liu Runhua, a senior provincial social worker, said he did not believe the case reflected a wider malaise in Guangdong, the provincial capital,.
"Those who ignore the dying make up only a handful of people in the province," the China Daily quoted him as saying.
"But cases when dying persons aren't given help, or when good Samaritans get into trouble, are often widely reported in the media, which tends to make the public concerned."
Guangzhou plans a law to protect good Samaritans and give rewards of up to $78,581 for such actions, the newspaper added.
Wang Yang, the provincial Communist Party chief, urged "searching reflection" on the incident, the official Guangzhou Daily reported.
"Take active and effective steps to raise the moral standards of the entire society," he told a meeting of province officials, according to the paper.
"We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet," Wang also said, Xinhua reported separately.
Many people in China are hesitant to help people who appear to be in distress for fear that they will be blamed.
High-profile lawsuits have ended with good Samaritans ordered to pay hefty fines to individuals they sought to help.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies