Chinese 'Good Samaritans' offered insurance from extortion

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese insurer is offering payouts for people accused of causing injuries while helping elderly people in trouble, state media said Monday (Oct 19), after a string of "Good Samaritans" faced fines.

The "Helping Elderly Insurance" launched last week can provide 20,000 yuan (S$4,353) for legal costs in such cases, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

It comes after a string of incidents in which well-intentioned individuals helped elderly people, only to end up subjected to accusations or blackmail.

As a result many Chinese bystanders are reluctant to step in when they see people in trouble.

In one well-known instance in 2009, a man who came to the aid of an elderly woman was ordered to pay 100,000 yuan on the grounds that he would not have helped if he was not responsible.

The insurance product launched on Alipay, a platform owned by Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, with a premium of just three yuan annually, Xinhua said.

It has already attracted 26,000 users, it reported, adding that: "Some have called the insurance a marketing ploy."

It cited Alipay as saying that the product aims to "promote a helpful spirit and kindness in society."

A commentary in state-run newspaper the Qianjiang Evening News called Alibaba "a pioneer in tackling the moral crisis commercially".

According to a copy of the product's terms and conditions seen by AFP, the insurance company behind the scheme, Sinosafe, will carry out an investigation into alleged incidents before paying out.

The product appeared to have launched a bout of online soul-searching, with many seeing the product as a reflection of declining moral standards.

"What has happened to society?" asked one online poster. "You have to buy insurance for doing a good deed."