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Mourning the past and fearing the future in China

Friday, Dec 27, 2013 - 01:56

Dec. 27 - For Chinese parents whose only child has died, the loss of their offspring means they have no one to look after them - financially or physically - in the future. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

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Mourning the past and fearing the future in China Spring Festival, when families get together is the hardest time of the year for Shi Hui and her husband -- because their only son will never be with them again on this most important day for Chinese people. Their son died of cancer three weeks before the Spring Festival in 2012. As she mourns for the past she fears for the future. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 50-YEAR-OLD SHI HUI SAYING: "We are quite worried, not only financially, but also about who will look after us when we get old. Even if we don't have illnesses, there will still be a lot of problems as we grow old. We will have difficulty taking care of ourselves and moving around as freely. We won't even be able to go to the hospital or go shopping for daily necessities by ourselves." China has at least one million "shidu" families - that is families which have lost their only child. For many of these parents another child is just not an option. With little in the way of welfare or health insurance Chinese people rely on children to support them in old age. In China, children must vouch for their parents before they can be accepted to a senior citizens home. But its not the kind of place Shi would want to go to anyway. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 50-YEAR-OLD SHI HUI SAYING: "We don't want to live in a regular elderly home either, because it will be really hard for us to see other people's children come and visit them on holidays and festivals. So we prefer to live in a elderly home with people who are just like us." A loosening of the one-child policy, which will allow more parents to have a second child, will begin early next year. It's the most radical relaxation in close to three decades. But for many families it is a change that comes too late.

Mourning the past and fearing the future in China

Friday, Dec 27, 2013 - 01:56

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