Chinese railway station warns passengers not to give money to elderly beggar
- Announcement at Hangzhou East tells commuters she is ‘from a well-off family, don’t fall for her story’
- The 79-year-old woman told her son she was saving up to hire a carer, local newspaper reports
A railway station in eastern China has taken the unusual step of warning passengers not to give money to an elderly beggar who it says comes from a wealthy family and lives in a five-storey home.
In a video taken at Hangzhou East station widely circulated on Chinese social media, the announcement over the public address system can be heard: “The old woman [asking for money at the station] is from a well-off family, don’t fall for her story.”
Her son has since confirmed that the woman is not destitute, according to a Qianjiang Evening News report on Sunday. He told the newspaper that his 79-year-old mother holds accounts with several banks near her home in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
He said the family owns a factory and a five-storey house which they live in, and receives annual rent of 50,000 yuan (US$7,200) from tenants living on the first floor.
But his mother apparently refuses to stop going to the railway station to beg for money and told her son she was saving up to hire a carer for when she gets “old”, according to the newspaper.
“I just want to sell some maps here [at the station] but they won’t let me. I just want a bit of money,” the woman can be heard telling the person shooting the video.
On microblogging site Weibo, many people said they found the railway station’s announcement amusing, calling its management “very conscientious”. But others criticised the woman, saying she was shameless and did not appreciate her good life.
According to her son, the woman insisted on going to the station every day at 10am, saying she did not want to stay at home. He told the newspaper his mother said she was selling maps, but eventually he found out that she had actually been begging.
He added that he had considered sending his elderly parents back to their hometown Shengzhou, about 1½ hours’ drive from Hangzhou, after he found out about the begging, but was worried there was no one there to take care of them.
According to government statistics, a quarter of China’s population is expected to be aged over 60 by 2030, as birth and marriage rates continue to drop. Despite ending the one-child policy in 2016, 17.58 million babies were born in China last year – compared to 241 million people aged over 60.
Aside from a shrinking workforce, the ageing population also presents a challenge for the country’s elderly care services, particularly for those aged 80 and above who have conditions such as dementia.