You might be smiling at this, but this anecdote does raise some interesting questions: a young man refused to give up his seat on the bus and was attacked by several elderly persons as a result. The scene was shot by one of the passengers. Since, the video has been broadcasted on the Internet. It has been seen more than 160,000 times and triggers strong reactions against the elderly.
This is not the first time this type of altercation takes place in China: an elderly person has died from a heart attack during a similar incident.
Altercations between the young and the elderly in Chinese public transport
In the buses of the Chinese town of Wuhan, yellow seats are reserved for the elderly, pregnant women and disabled people. Despite that, young people do not always respect the rules. A young man who refused to give up a priority seat on the bus was called out by an elderly person: they asked him to give his seat to another elderly person next to him. As the young man refused again, an altercation took place, until several elderly people physically attacked the young man.
The scene was shot by one of the passengers. They then broadcasted it on the NetEase portal as well as the Weibo social network (a Chinese equivalent of Twitter). Reactions from the web soon followed. The video was massively shared and commented to criticize the elderly.
“If they’re strong enough to beat up people, why do they need seats?” one of the comments says. “The young man was wrong when he didn’t give up his seat. But those people acted in an even worse way than he did… giving your seat in public transport is a voluntary act. How can you use violence to force people to give up their seat?” says another one.
This kind of incident between the young and the elderly happens often in Chinese public transport. In Zhengzhou, another incident for a bus seat ended tragically: an elderly man died from a heart attack.
China: how can we explain intergenerational conflicts?
In China, our vision of the elderly is changing
In Asia, the elderly have an important place in society and respecting them remains a strong cultural value. In Japan, seniors are growing in numbers and policies in their favor are multiplying. There even is a holiday for seniors called Keiro no hi. It takes place on the third Monday of september in order to celebrate their long contribution to society.
Last year, leaders of the Korean community in New York called for an international boycott of MacDonald’s as a sign of protest against the treatment of a group of Korean seniors in one of the city’s restaurants.
However, intergenerational bonds in China are getting more and more tense as the population gets older: the elderly are perceived as a burden more than ever.
Economic problems at the heart of the intergenerational conflict matter
Professor Pan Tianshu is an anthropologist from the University of Fudan. He explained at BBC Trending that the main reason to the intergenerational conflit is, first and foremost, an economic one.“Instead of looking at this matter as a mere conflict of generations, we should see it as the result of a situation in which public resources are limited, as the population changes [and gets older].
The situation for seniors in China is getting more and more precarious
It is estimated that China will have a population of 300 million seniors as of 2035. The Chinese population is aging fast, partly because of the policy of “only one child”. This has consequences on the evolution of the Chinese society: the elderly are often facing difficult financial situations. They sometimes have to work by collecting waste in order to live.
The elderly suicide rate in rural settings is increasing, and neither the public opinion nor the authorities seem to be aware of it.