The death of 10-year-old girl in a Xian traffic accident sparked clashes between angry local residents and police last week, local residents said on Monday.
Coming just weeks after the tragic death of Guangdong toddler Wang Yue in a hit-and-run accident, the death of fourth-grader Xu Yueqi under the wheels of a slag truck ignited popular anger, prompting hundreds of people to riot, overturning police cars.
Since Xu’s funeral, a 21-year-old man was also killed by a similar truck, bringing the total number of deaths in Xian this year linked to similar trucks to 47.
A Xian resident surnamed Yang said the riots had been fueled by the large number of bystanders at the scene of the accident.
“After the slag truck ran over a girl and killed her, there were a lot of bystanders at the scene,” Yang said. “Two police cars that arrived at the scene and were trying to clear a passage through the crowd got rocked and overturned.”
“There have already been 40 or 50 people killed after being run over by these slag trucks so far in the past 10 months,” Yang added.
“The people of Xian are very angry,” he said. “Too many people have been killed and so they probably couldn’t take it any more.”
Photos of the incident posted online showed a human figure lying under the wheels of a large truck, and a man identified as Xu’s father trying to reach his daughter.
In another image, two overturned police cars lay close by, while other photos showed Xu’s family in the midst of their grief.
Local media reports also showed large numbers of people at the scene, shouting loudly, although official media made no mention of unrest.
Xu’s relatives accused the truck driver of not braking when the accident first happened.
“If he’d braked promptly … then she wouldn’t have died,” Xu’s aunt was quoted as saying by local media. “They knocked her over and then ran over her. They also ran over her dad.”
“It wasn’t until a traffic cop ordered the truck to stop that they could pull her dad out from under the truck,” she said.
Xu had been riding on the back of her father’s electric bike when she was hit by the truck. Her father was dazed with grief in interviews with local media, but apparently unharmed.
“The traffic cop stopped [the truck],” he told local television. “If the traffic cop hadn’t ordered him to stop, then I would be dead too.”
“What’s the point in going to the hospital?” he said.
Yang said that road deaths at the hands of slag truck drivers are common in Xian.
“This isn’t just a question of the past year or two,” he said. “This sort of thing is very common in Xian, but there have been more [accidents] this year.”
A policeman who answered the phone at a station in the Chang’an district of the city, where the 21-year-old man was run over, confirmed that police had received an emergency report of the accident.
But he declined to answer further questions.
Xian-based journalist Ma Xiaoming said mass incidents are often triggered by land or property disputes, forced evictions, or a sudden rush of anger among ordinary Chinese over examples of injustice.
“When they come across something like this, then it all explodes,” Ma said. “It depends on how the accident is dealt with at the time.”
“If you don’t first get the child’s body out from under the truck, but you first shoo away the crowd from the scene, then what does that say is happening?”
Ma said the government’s policy of promoting social stability before anything else often prompts an angry backlash among ordinary people.
“They didn’t first pull out the injured or dead person from under the truck; the first thing they did was to try to move the crowd on,” he said.
“This just fueled people’s anger even more,” Ma said, adding: “The most serious mass incidents happen at the height of popular emotion.”
Thousands of Chinese netizens left messages of anger and grief on popular microblogging services last month after a toddler hit twice in hit-and-run accidents was ignored by more than a dozen passers-by.
The death of Wang Yue following her accident in the southern city of Foshan sparked widespread concern over what many say are falling moral and social standards in China.
The accident sparked public fury after street camera footage from her hometown of Foshan showed her being run over twice, as more than a dozen passersby walked past without helping her.
The accident was filmed on a closed-circuit surveillance camera, and the video widely posted online, garnering millions of viewers.
Chinese netizens launched an online campaign of harassment, targeting some of those depicted in the video as looking at Yue Yue lying bleeding and crying on the ground, but doing nothing to help.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service, and by Bi Zimo for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.