HANGZHOU, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Reports of do-gooders extorted by the elderly have dissuaded China's good Samaritans from lending a helping hand, but a new insurance product offered through Alibaba may offer new courage.
Since appearing on the e-commerce company's Alipay platform on Oct. 16, the "Helping Elderly Insurance" from Sinosafe General Insurance Company has received some 26,000 applications.
For an annual three-yuan (47 U.S. cents) premium, the customer may be compensated up to 20,000 yuan for legal costs if they are accused of causing injuries after helping senior citizens. The insurance, valid for one year and offered exclusively through Alipay, also provides legal consultation services for the policy holder.
Authorities with Alipay said that in addition to offering support for good Samaritans, the insurance is meant to promote a helpful spirit and kindness in society.
Heated discussion has erupted on the Chinese Internet over the product. While many say they would be more willing to help others after buying the insurance, others see it as a reflection of declining morality.
"What irony it is that one has to buy insurance before doing a good deed," said Weibo commenter "Tui818mo."
"I feel sad. The simple good deed has evolved into such an issue, which makes me feel that the distance between people is growing," said another poster,"Woshi_shuangyuzuo_," on the social media site.
China has seen a spate of reports in recent years of well-intentioned individuals who help the elderly, only to end up subjected to accusations or blackmail. The incidents have triggered public indignation, with many finding themselves unsure if they should take the risk to help.
Some have called the insurance a marketing ploy. A commentary on news portal iDoNews suggested that the insurance will have little influence on people's behavior, considering the low compensation limit.
Alipay and the insurer can make headlines by promoting the product, the commentary said, adding that the insurance may even send misleading messages by painting elderly people as potential blackmailers.
A commentary in newspaper Qianjiang Evening News supported the insurance, calling Alibaba a pioneer in tackling the moral crisis commercially. The article said it can heighten people's sense of morality and promote legal system improvements.
Yu Qiang, researcher with Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences, said financial products can provide a way to protect those who want to help. However, to promote good deeds and improve social trust, more legal support for good Samaritans is necessary.