Help­ing the aged to stay away from trans­gres­sions

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

An 80-year-old pas­sen­ger re­cently threw some coins at one of the en­gines of the plane she was board­ing at Shang­hai air­port be­cause she be­lieved it would bring good luck and en­sure a safe flight. A co-pas­sen­ger saw her do­ing so and alerted the air­port of­fi­cials, fol­low­ing which the flight was de­layed. Con­sid­er­ing her ad­vanced age and given that her ac­tion didn’t cause any se­ri­ous dam­age, po­lice re­mit­ted her five-day de­ten­tion.

Since she didn’t in­tend to dam­age the plane or cause harm to the pas­sen­gers, and her ac­tion had no se­ri­ous con­se­quences thanks to the air­port staff mem­bers’ ef­forts, she was sub­jected to the Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tive Pun­ish­ment Law, which says a pun­ish­ment can be re­mit­ted if the of­fender is above 70 years of age.

The in­creas­ing in­volve­ment of se­nior cit­i­zens in law vi­o­la­tion cases in re­cent years can be at­trib­uted to two fac­tors: China’s rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, and un­bal­anced re­gional de­vel­op­ment. The rapid rise in the num­ber of se­nior cit­i­zens might have led to a pro­por­tional in­crease in their in­volve­ment in crim­i­nal cases. And some se­nior cit­i­zens’ poor eco­nomic con­di­tion may have forced them to con­duct mis­deeds. There are also re­ports that the “left be­hind” chil­dren are some­times abused by the “left be­hind” se­nior cit­i­zens.

To bring some sta­bil­ity and com­fort into the life of the el­derly, the au­thor­i­ties will first have to pro­vide them with bet­ter sub­si­dies. True, the govern­ment has im­ple­mented a co­or­di­nated ur­ban-ru­ral so­cial en­dow­ment in­sur­ance sys­tem, but in ru­ral ar­eas the pen­sions are far from enough for them to live a de­cent life. The au­thor­i­ties should there­fore in­crease the sub­si­dies and pro­vide more old age homes and bet­ter care for se­nior cit­i­zens to en­able them to spend the rest of their lives in peace and rel­a­tive com­fort.

Sec­ond, the el­derly should be ed­u­cated about the ba­sic laws and cau­tioned that cer­tain ac­tions can land them in jail. For ex­am­ple, had the woman known the con­se­quences of throw­ing coins at a plane’s en­gine, she cer­tainly wouldn’t have com­mit­ted the of­fense. So the el­derly, es­pe­cially those with lit­tle knowl­edge about modern ma­chin­ery, must be made to re­al­ize such facts, be­cause it will also pre­vent them from be­ing used by oth­ers to un­wit­tingly com­mit a crime.

Third, the au­thor­i­ties would do well to con­sider adult ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams as a way to pro­mote so­cial sta­bil­ity. Sim­ple classes can en­hance the pool of knowl­edge of the el­derly in gen­eral.

Fourth, the govern­ment and so­ci­ety could help those el­derly who want to be re-em­ployed to find suit­able jobs. In fact, the au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to de­velop China’s own “sil­ver in­dus­try”, which would help ful­fill the spe­cial needs of the ag­ing pop­u­la­tion. By cre­at­ing the right plat­forms that will al­low the el­derly to re-en­ter the la­bor mar­ket, the au­thor­i­ties will not only help them to live a bet­ter life, but also keep them up­dated with the changes in so­ci­ety.

Proper guid­ance and sup­port sup­ple­mented with nec­es­sary pun­ish­ment are the right way to pre­vent the el­derly from un­wit­tingly break­ing the law. An­cient Chi­nese philoso­pher Men­cius said: “Sup­port and re­spect thy elders, and those in gen­eral as well.” More­over, the logic be­hind the amend­ment to the Crim­i­nal Law, which stip­u­lates that death penalty shall gen­er­ally not be used for peo­ple who are al­ready 75 years old at the time of trial, was a sign that the law now ac­cords pref­er­en­tial treatment to the aged. And we can do that by treat­ing the el­derly with em­pa­thy and help­ing them lead a peace­ful life.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of law at Wuhan-based Zhong­nan Univer­sity of Eco­nom­ics and Law.

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

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