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Aging Population Takes to the Courts

A province with an increasing aged population, Guangdong is seeing a growing number of its elderly turning to the courts.


Liu Sanmei, 96, is the oldest person in Shengping Village, Pingyuan County, in eastern Guangdong's Meizhou.


Last month, Liu won a lawsuit against her three sons requiring that they provide her with living expenses and share the cost of her medical bills.


Pingyuan County People's Court ruled that the men should pay 60 yuan (US$7.4) each to Liu every month starting this month.


Liu, who used to live with her third son, took legal action after he built a new house and moved away early this year.


After he left, none of her sons came to visit her or gave her any financial support.


Liu is one of many of Guangdong's senior citizens who have turned to the law to protect their rights in recent years.


According to Ma Jungang, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Justice, more than 1,200 senior citizens filed cases in the province during the first six months of this year.


In 2004, nearly 2,000 elderly people pursued legal action, while around 5,000 sought legal aid between 1997 and 2003.


"The trend is currently keeping up strong momentum," said Ma.


Most lawsuits are a result of elderly people trying to secure financial support from their children, property disputes and children interfering in a parent's plans to remarry.


Ma said courts are likely to see more such cases as the number of elderly people in the province grows, and urged Guangdong's senior citizens to use the law to protect their rights.


Ma also promised to establish more legal aid centers across the province and provide better legal services for elderly people.


Yang Huawei, director of the General Office of the Guangdong Provincial Work Committee of the Aged, is urging governments at all levels to speed up reform of the province's pension system and to show more concern for the senior population.


"The province is ageing rapidly and we have to take effective measures to protect the legal interests of elderly residents," said Yang.


In addition to raising pensions for urban residents, Yang believes the province's pension system should also benefit elderly residents in rural areas.


Many elderly people living in rural areas have no pension and are forced to rely on their children to survive.


More homes for the elderly should be set up in the province, particularly in rural areas to meet the growing demand, Yang added.


By the end of last year, Guangdong had more than 8.8 million residents over the age of 60 11.14 percent of the province's total population.


The number of residents over 65 has reached 5.7 million 7.22 percent of the total population.


(China Daily October 14, 2005)

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