A man who has been missing since the Wenchuan earthquake has been declared legally dead by the Dujiangyan people's court in Sichuan province.
The man, surnamed Deng, is believed to be the first missing person to be declared dead in the province, Xia Chunguang, an information officer from Dujiangyan, said yesterday.
Deng was last seen on the afternoon of May 12, as he was driving his car to Hongkou in Dujiangyan.
His wife, surnamed Liu, and police searched for him, but without success, Xia said.
On July 17, Liu asked the Dujiangyan municipal people's court to declare her husband legally dead.
The court then published a notice in People's Daily in a bid to find Deng, Xia said.
When no information was forthcoming, the Dujiangyan municipal people's court declared him dead, in line with the country's code of civil law, he said, without giving the exact date of the declaration.
According to the Sichuan provincial higher people's court, the number of civil cases in quake-hit areas is on the rise.
They involve disputes involving mortgages, insurance policies, marriages, families, inheritance, bankruptcy, creditors' rights and land contract rights, it said.
Although enforcement of court judgments is difficult in quake-hit areas, in June, the Supreme People's Court issued a circular asking courts to respond swiftly to cases pertaining to death declarations.
It asked them to identify the missing and the dead as well as those in line to inherit their property.
The Dujiangyan people's court did not disclose Liu's age or reason why his wife wanted to have him declared dead, according to Xia.
However, she was not the first to ask authorities to declare a family member dead after the May 12 quake.
In June, the family of Xu Bin, a company executive from Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province, asked the local court to declare him dead.
When the quake struck, Xu, who was in his 50s, was on a bus about 1 km from Yingxiu, the epicenter.
A mudflow washed him and all but six passengers away.
(China Daily November 25, 2008)