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Woman, 93, Living Homeless As China Fails To Care For The Elderly

Woman, 93, Living Homeless As China Fails To Care For The Elderly

Sleeping on a filthy mat on the street at night and by day sitting in a wheelchair and begging, hoping that people living nearby will feed her, this 93-year-old woman has become the public face of China's failure to adapt to the modern world and care for its elderly.

Widowed Yang Tixiu has become the very public face at the heart of the row over whether the state or a person's family is responsible for care of the elderly.

The reason: In 1992 she became the first in the country to sue her two adult sons after both refused to care for her. She had earlier allowed them to inherit the family home when her husband died, and believed they would provide for her in her old age.

Her case and a handful of others like it that ended up in the courts forced the Chinese government to act, and a year ago China amended its elderly care law to require children to support their parents emotionally as well as financially. Children who do not visit their parents can be taken to court.

But the law which allowed Yang Tixiu to win both the cases against her sons seems to have failed as she is still on the street and still getting nothing from either of them, leaving many in the country questioning whether it was even wise to attempt to legislate over love.

Across the world populations have been ageing and there will soon be a situation where there are more older people than young for the first time in history. In China the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the one child policy means there are even fewer young people to care for the elderly.

Yang Tixiu said: "I don't really want much more than simply a place to sleep and something to eat, but I wasn't even getting that and when I realised I was about to end up on the streets I didn't have any choice other than to take them to court."

Unusually for China she has two sons, and that was the cause of the problem as in a society where there is often only one child, there is usually no questions over inheritance. But both of her sons had wanted to inherit everything.

Both felt cheated and as a result of neither felt they were responsible for caring for their mother once they had been given the 50 percent share of the property. The ruling in her favour in 1992 resulted in nothing happening at all, and after ending up in a single room and with no savings, she sued them again after the recent law change and again the court ruled in her favour. But nothing happened and now she does not even have the single room and is living on the streets in the town of Zhuyang in Dazhu county in southwest China's Sichuan province.

Local officials have been looking at the woman's case but have not commented publicly on it. Those living nearby who are giving her meals are left baffled as to why the woman's children do not want to help.

Local Zhen Hsu, 35, said: "I suppose if you don't know her you might think that maybe she is difficult or something and that might be why her sons have distanced themselves from her, but she really very pleasant and easy to get on with and she's absolutely not demanding. Everything she gets from us she's really grateful for and it's a tragedy that someone like her should end up like this."

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