VII. Safeguarding Elderly People's Legitimate Rights and Interests
The Chinese government respects and protects the legitimate rights and interests of elderly people, and employs legal and ethical means to strengthen this work so as to promote realization of legitimate rights and interests of the aged.
The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates that "Chinese citizens have the right to material assistance from the state and society when old, sick or unable to work;" "Citizens above the age of 18 are obliged to support their parents;" and "There must be no mistreatment of senior citizens, women or children." The basic laws of China, including the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People, General Principles of the Civil Law of the People's Republic of China, Law of Succession of the People's Republic of China, Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China, Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China, and Law of the People's Republic of China on Public Security Administration Punishments, all clarify the rights of senior citizens and stipulate the legal punishments for acts infringing on their rights.
So far, 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government have promulgated and enforced local regulations on the protection of the rights and interests of senior citizens. The state fully respects and cares for senior citizens in social life. In 2005, the government issued Opinions on Strengthening the Work of Care for Senior Citizens, requiring the departments concerned to give preference to senior citizens regarding economic support, medical care, everyday services, cultural recreation and exercise, and rights protection. Similar policies on special treatment for senior citizens have been promulgated in all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, enabling seniors to fully enjoy social respect and care.
The People's Court takes very seriously the handling of cases of mistreating, abandoning and harming seniors, punishing in accordance with the law crimes infringing on senior citizens' rights of person and property, and gives priority to lawsuits concerning seniors' support and medical care in putting on file, adjudicating and executing these cases. Some grassroots people's courts have set up "seniors tribunal" to handle civil cases concerning senior citizens, and established the jury system for cases involving seniors.
The Supreme People's Court of China has formulated regulations on judicial assistance, and on postponing, reducing or exempting court costs for poor senior citizens. In 2005, more than 30,000 seniors received judicial assistance. Public security agencies severely crack down on illegal acts or crimes infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of senior citizens in accordance with the law, so as to protect the safety of their persons and property.
Judicial and administrative departments make vigorous efforts to provide legal assistance and services to senior citizens. And local legal assistance and service agencies give top priority and preferential treatment to seniors. Grassroots people's mediation organizations in both urban and rural areas are playing a significant role in settling disputes concerning senior citizens and protecting their rights and interests. From 2001 to 2005, each year legal service agencies provided assistance to seniors involved in over 40,000 cases, served as agents and provided services in over 400,000 similar lawsuits and non-lawsuits, and settled over 400,000 senior-concerned disputes.
The standing committees of the people's congresses at all levels conduct regular or irregular inspections on law enforcement in this regard, ensuring that government departments are fulfilling their responsibility to protect the legitimate rights and interests of senior citizens. From 2001 to 2005, standing committees of people's congresses above the county level made altogether more than 3,000 inspections on the enforcement of laws and regulations relating to senior citizens.
Meanwhile, people's political consultative conferences at all levels fulfill the function of democratic supervision, offering advice to governments on how to improve the work of protecting the rights and interests of senior citizens. From 2001 to 2005, members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference made nearly 1,000 proposals concerning senior citizens. Government departments at all levels are improving the work of handling petitions and visits, in order to make sure that the channel for the people's supervision is unimpeded.
By letters and visits, senior citizens protect their rights and air their opinions and advice. In 2005, agencies on ageing around China handled altogether nearly 400,000 letters and visits from senior citizens. The news media too has carried out different forms of supervision by public opinion centering on the issue of protecting the rights and interests of senior citizens.
The Chinese government attaches importance to publicizing and popularizing laws, regulations and policies concerning senior citizens. It has included the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People in the Third Five-Year (1996-2000), Fourth Five-Year (2001-2005) and Fifth Five-Year (2006-2010) plans on spreading general knowledge of the law, and launched educational activities in varied forms, strengthening the people's awareness of the importance of protecting seniors' legitimate rights and interests, as well as seniors' self-protection awareness. Governments at all levels have adopted a variety of methods to invigorate the tradition of the Chinese nation of respect and support for elderly people, and improve people's awareness of the importance of respecting seniors. Senior Citizens' Day is celebrated nationwide.
On the Double Ninth Festival (the ninth day of the ninth lunar month) and local Senior Citizens' Day, government departments concerned actively organize large-scale educational activities and activities for respecting senior citizens. Local governments target teenagers for education in respect for senior citizens, include relevant content in primary and middle school courses, and conduct the Educational Activity of Respecting, Loving and Helping Senior Citizens among teenagers, and boost a sound social environment for giving respect to and providing for the aged.
China has made obvious achievements in its undertakings for the aged. However, as a developing country with a population of 1.3 billion, China still has problems and shortcomings in the work concerning elderly people. For example, laws and regulations concerning senior citizens need further improvement, and there are still acts infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of elderly people; the social security system is yet to be perfected; elderly people with difficulties in their everyday lives in some urban areas do not have adequate social security; the problem of impoverished elderly people in some rural areas is still conspicuous; and a social atmosphere of respecting elderly people needs to be further developed.
In China, the task of solving problems concerning elderly people and continuously promoting the development of undertakings for the aged remains an arduous one. At present, the population of senior citizens in China is growing by three percent every year. Facing the growing challenge of the ageing population, the Chinese government will adopt more effective strategies to promote the undertakings for the aged in coordination with economic and social development, in order to enable senior citizens to share the fruits of economic and social development.