More than a dozen pedestrians and motorists passed by as Wang Yue lay writhing in pain after she was hit last week by a van in a wholesale market in the southern city of Foshan, in Guangdong province.
Video footage from a closed-circuit camera was posted on YouTube and Youku, a Chinese video-sharing site.
As Wang lay in the street after the first collision, another van ran over her, although it appears the driver didn't notice. More bystanders walked by, including one woman with a small girl who walked briskly away after she realized there was a bloody child on the ground.
A 57-year-old trash collector eventually moved Wang to safety. The trash collector pleaded with passersby to no avail until the girl's mother arrived and called an ambulance.
Wang is currently in an intensive-care unit.
The Chinese media have erupted in outrage over Wang's plight and the fact that it took so long for someone to help her.
The official People's Daily on Tuesday condemned the passersby and lauded the trash collector in an editorial entitled, "We could all be the pedestrians that walk past the injured girl."
Members of the Chinese public also did some soul-searching over the event.
"The indifference from one or two people may be acceptable. But 18 people? Doesn't this say something about the local culture?" said Li Hongbo on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like micro-blogging service. "I am extremely disappointed by the moral standards in China."
"Stop the Indifference" was the top trending topic on Weibo the day after the incident was reported.
Many said they see the country's constant obsession with economic prosperity as the main reason for eroding moral standards.
"China as a nation has lost its passion and is beyond hope. It's a nation that can sell its soul for money," said Haowu Yiyi on Weibo.
Various government agencies in Foshan gave about $4,000 to the trash collector who helped Wang. She has said she will be giving the money to the family of the injured girl, according to local media reports.
The driver of both of the vans that struck Wang have been apprehended by police, according to the Guangzhou Daily.
China has no Good Samaritan-style law, and many in the country avoid helping such strangers in need for fear they will be blamed for the accident.
Last week, a bus driver who helped an elderly woman who fell ill on the bus collected contact information from four eyewitnesses in the event he was accused of harming the woman.
In the past week, it was reported that a tourist from the U.S. jumped into West Lake in Hangzhou to save a suicidal woman. Many are questioning why none of the Chinese bystanders did anything to help. The case has elicited a similar torrent of outrage online.
-- Benjamin Haas
Photo: Security camera image from Oct. 13, 2011, run by China's TVS. Credit: TVS / APTN / Associated Press