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Page added on July 28, 2013

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China law requires adults to visit their elderly parents

In China, forgetting to visit your elderly parents may lead to a court case.

The country’s newly amended Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly took effect on Monday, forcing adult citizens to visit their elderly family members. Also on Monday, the People’s Court of Beitang District in Wuxi City ordered a Chinese woman and her husband to visit her 77-year-old mother, only identified by her surname Chu, at least once every two months, according to a report from Xinhua news agency. Failing to visit every two months, as well as at least three times on major traditional holidays, could mean a fine or detention for the woman, the report said.

‘Lack of emotional support’

This was the first application of the new law, which provides legal basis for “an increasing number of cases of senior citizens suing their children over a lack of emotional support,” according to the court’s president Zhou Qiang. “With their spiritual needs neglected, many elderly people are suffering from loneliness and depression,” Quiang was quoted by Xinhua. Legislator Yu Jianwei said that China’s elderly population is expected to exceed 200 million in 2013, Xinhua reported. The 1996 law was amended last December in order to improve care for people aged 60 and above, an earlier report on Xinhua said. Implementing the law falls under China’s National Human Rights Action Plan for 2012 to 2015, as well as gradually improving the old-age security system, and constructing an old-age service system.

Difficult to implement

“The government uses legislation to protect the elderly, but in reality it is just to put all the blame on to their children. It should have thought of how they would address this problem when it brought in the one-child policy,” a commenter on Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo was quoted in the South China Morning Post. Others pointed out that the law would be difficult to implement. “The intention is good, but an unenforceable law seems like mixing law and ethics,” newspaper columnist and social commentator Yao Bo was quoted in China Real Time Report.

‘Too expensive’

Those who live far away from their parents would also have difficulty following the law. Wang Xiaobin, who works in Fujian 2,000 kilometers away from his hometown in Sichuan, told Xinhua that seeing his parents regularly is “just too expensive.” “Once a year at most, I can’t afford more,” he said. The law was also criticized for its vague wording, with no specifics on how often people should visit their parents, as well as on the punishments for violating the law.  “Regardless, turning what was a traditional moral obligation into a legal obligation will play a positive role in helping people realize that they have a duty of care to the elderly,” the report said. — GMA News


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