On May 16, a Chinese woman writing on her WeChat social media account described how she had been almost dragged into a van by an unknown middle-aged man who grabbed her by the throat while saying that her father owned him money.
Even as the woman, a student living in Chaozhou, southern China, struggled and screamed for help, no one came to her aid.
“This society has become cold, people are indifferent even when they see others in danger,” the woman, whose name was not revealed, wrote. “After today’s experience, I don’t dare ever go out alone again. I’m in a state of shock even now.”
A six-second clip from video taken by a roadside surveillance camera shows the man dragging the woman into the backseat of the van. According to Guangzhou Daily, a local newspaper, the woman was momentarily stunned after receiving a blow to the head. But as the man moved himself to the driver’s seat and prepared to start the engine, his captive escaped via the back door. The van left without her.
Police say the 36-year-old man, Ke Mouxi, was apprehended on May 18.
Chinese have become increasingly concerned with the general apathy people display when confronted by such incidents, particularly involving more vulnerable members of society—women, children, and the elderly. This April, the incident of a woman who was nearly abducted in a low-budget Beijing hotel sparked widespread outrage on Chinese social media when it was found that neither hotel staff nor the police took her case seriously.
One netizen lamented that criminals discourage bystanders from taking action by portraying themselves as related to the victims:
“With a shout of ‘she owes me money,’ ‘she’s my mistress,’ ‘she’s a whore,’ or ‘she’s a thief,’ the human trafficker can get away with seizing a female student and taking her off to a remote valley where some guy is awaiting his new wife.”
Another wrote: “If [bystanders] can get away with saying ‘I didn’t recognize what was going on’ after the fact, it’ll just lead to more and more of these incidents.”