BEIJING — They are calling it the death that awakened the conscience of China.
A 2-year-old girl who was crushed by two vans last week and then ignored by 18 passersby as she lay bleeding on the street died Friday of systematic organ failure at a hospital in the southern Guangdong province.
By midday, there were 2 million condolence messages flooding the Internet for the girl, whose name was Wang Yue, or Yueyue for short.
"Heaven's roads have no cars. Go in peace, little Yueyue," wrote one woman.
"Your life woke up this ignorant society. Thanks to little Yueyue for letting us stop our fast-paced steps so we can wait for our soul," wrote a man, Sun Laolin.
The accident happened Oct. 13 at a market in Foshan, a city in Guangdong province. Yueyue's plight has riveted China since Oct. 16, when harrowing video from a closed-circuit camera at the market went up on the Internet, showing the little girl in red trousers and a dark T-shirt toddling into the path of a delivery van.
As she lay bleeding in the road, the video shows, people walked or drove by on scooters, in some cases pausing to look at the girl or swerving to avoid her, but not stopping to help or call police. She was hit by another van before a trash collector pulled her out of the road and called Yueyue's mother, who had been hanging laundry at the time the girl wandered off.
Yueyue has since become a household name in China, as has her lone rescuer, trash collector Chen Xianmei, 57, an illiterate migrant from the countryside.
The case has become the Chinese equivalent of the infamous 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, whose neighbors overlooking a New York courtyard either heard or saw her being stabbed and didn't call the police. Her death inspired books, songs and movies.
Guangdong provincial officials, along with Communist Party youth league members, lawyers and social workers, held three days of meetings this week in the provincial capital of Guangzhou to discuss the case.
"We couldn't imagine that moral values have declined so much," said Zhu Yongping, a Guangzhou lawyer who attended one of the meetings Friday.
He and other lawyers are trying to draft "good Samaritan" legislation that would penalize people who fail to help in a situation of this type and indemnify them from lawsuits if their efforts fail.