Beijing (AFP) Sept 28, 2010
The suicide rate among the elderly living in China's urban areas has become alarmingly high as they face rising medical bills and relocations from their homes, state media reported Tuesday.
The annual suicide rate among those aged 70 to 74 in cities surged above 33 per 100,000 people between 2002 and 2008 compared to 13 per 100,000 people in the 1990s, the official China Daily quoted a sociology professor as saying.
The professor, Jing Jun from Beijing's Tsinghua University, said a trend of relocating people from old sections of cities due to be demolished to make way for modern buildings had contributed to the increased rate, the report said.
"Relocation could be a bane to senior citizens in many ways, like throwing them into unfamiliar communities, lengthening the distance from their family members and raising disputes on property rights," he was quoted as saying.
China is traditionally a nation where the elderly are cared for by their relatives.
But as the younger generation -- many of whom have no siblings because of the nation's strict population control law -- come under the influence of modern-day life, some older people are feeling neglected.
Overall, though, China's suicide rate has fallen over the years, thanks to a decline in rural women taking their own lives, the report said.
This drop can be attributed to mass migration to urban areas, which has pulled many rural women out of subordinate roles in their families, Jing was quoted as saying.
However, the fragile mental state of some migrant workers has also attracted attention this year, with a spate of suicides at plants belonging to Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn.
earlier related report
Liu Xiaobo, a 54-year-old writer, was jailed for 11 years in December after co-authoring a bold call for democratic reform and is tipped as a favourite for the prize, the winner of which will be announced on October 8.
"The person you just mentioned was sentenced to jail by Chinese judicial authorities for violating Chinese law, and I think his acts are in complete contradiction to the Nobel peace prize," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters when asked about Liu's candidacy.
Liu's jailing for subversion followed the 2008 release of "Charter 08", a manifesto for reform signed by more than 300 Chinese intellectuals, academics and writers, and thousands of others after it was circulated on the Internet.
The sentence handed down to the activist and former professor, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement who has been repeatedly jailed over the years, sparked international condemnation.
Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said that honouring Liu would clash with the wishes of prizes founder Alfred Nobel, the Swedish industrialist.
Nobel's will stated the award should go to those who promote "fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the holding and promotion of peace congresses".
"On the Nobel Peace Prize I would suggest we pay attention to what Nobel himself said about that prize," Fu told reporters during a briefing on a planned trip to Europe by Premier Wen Jiabao.
Asked whether honouring Liu could hurt ties with Europe or Norway, where the awards are based, she said merely that differences with other nations on human rights can be resolved through dialogue.
In Oslo, the director of the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, told AFP on Tuesday that Fu had issued a warning against awarding the prize to Liu in a meeting in June.
"It's well known that the Chinese make their point of view known," said Lundestad, who is also the secretary of the Nobel committee. In that capacity, he guides the committee in its considerations but cannot vote.
"It happened again in June when I met Fu Ying," he said, noting that he had met the vice-minister in June at the Chinese embassy in Oslo at her request.
On Monday, Lundestad told Norwegian public radio NRK that he had been warned that awarding the prize to a Chinese dissident would be seen as an "unfriendly gesture" by Beijing.
"Every year, officials from different countries voice their opinion to us on who should or should not get the prize," Lundestad said.
China's opposition "did not prevent the Nobel committee to give the prize to the Dalai Lama in 1989," he said.
More than 120 scholars, writers and lawyers in China have signed a petition calling for Liu to win the Peace Prize.
Last week, former Czech president Vaclav Havel and other leaders of the country's 1989 "Velvet Revolution" issued a similar appeal.
In a commentary in the International Herald Tribune, they said the Nobel committee should honour Liu and send a "signal both to Liu and to the Chinese government that many inside China and around the world stand in solidarity with him".
In March, more than 100 writers, scholars and human rights activists submitted a letter to China's parliament calling for Liu's release.
They included British author Salman Rushdie, Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer of South Africa and Chinese writer Ma Jian.
China routinely jails rights activists, democracy advocates, and other government critics on charges that human rights campaigners say are bogus, while rejecting foreign criticism over its rights record.
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