China asks N. Zealand for extra quake dead cash

Beijing asked New Zealand Monday to pay extra compensation to Chinese parents whose children died in the Christchurch earthquake, saying China's one-child policy had exacerbated their loss.

Cheng Lei, a counsellor at Beijing's embassy in Wellington, said the one-child policy meant Chinese parents whose son or daughter died in the quake had not only lost a loved one, but also their family's future breadwinner.

"You can expect how lonely, how desperate they are, not only from losing loved ones, but losing almost entirely the major source of economic assistance after retirement," Cheng told Radio New Zealand.

Rescue workers are seen at the site of the collapsed CTV building in quake-ravaged Christchurch

Officials have confirmed seven Chinese students were killed in last month's 6.3-magnitude quake, with another 20-plus believed dead but not yet formally identified after the office block that housed their language school collapsed.

Under New Zealand law, the families of disaster victims, regardless of nationality, receive payments from a government fund called the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC).

The amounts due to relatives of the more than 200 people believed killed in the February 22 quake have not been publicly revealed but Cheng said many Chinese families believed it was not enough "to lead a sound or serene life".

He said the Chinese families were a special case because of the one-child policy, which Beijing introduced in 1980 as a means of limiting population growth.

"We hope the New Zealand government will take this very special case into consideration and, if possible, can make arrangements in terms of economic assistance other than the current ones," he said.

"You can imagine, if New Zealand adopted the same policy and any New Zealand family lost its only son or only daughter."

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the New Zealand government was doing its best to look after the bereaved Chinese families but existing laws made it was difficult to single out groups for special payments.

"It's hard within the framework of New Zealand," he said.


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