Passersby in Beijing left a woman stuck in a set of railings for around half an hour on Monday.
The incident was captured on security camera, and showed the woman accidentally slipping her neck into the railings while resting against the bars. Some posts online said she had fainted and fallen between them.
The railings at many public bus stations in China are such that there are small gaps between two hoops – just enough space to squeeze and suffocate the neck of someone unfortunate enough to be trapped between them.
Although people gathered around to watch, no one tried to help her get out of the predicament, according to the Beijing Morning Post. All the while, she was suffocating and losing oxygen to the brain.
Eventually, a local security guard phoned the police, but by the time she was rescued, the woman was unconscious and foaming at the mouth. She was taken to hospital, and pronounced brain dead.
Past legal cases against people who have tried to assist others in difficulty mean that many Chinese are afraid to help out in such situations.
According to state mouthpiece Xinhua, the woman’s brother-in-law said: “In fact, we understand those onlookers. Who dares to help when encountering such a thing. Everyone is afraid of getting into trouble.”
Netizens discussed the issue on their Weibo microblogs. One said: “Crowd of people, if you had just phoned 110 or 120, this woman might not be brain dead.”
Another commented: “If passersby lent a hand to help, she could have survived. Every one of these people should be ashamed for their apathy and anxiety. The indifference you showed today, you might encounter yourself tomorrow.”
Research by Lisa Huang.