China mandates care for parents as law


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BEIJING -- Mothers and fathers aren't the only ones urging adult children to visit their parents. China's lawbooks are now issuing the same imperative.

New wording in the law, requiring people to visit or keep in touch with their elderly parents or risk being sued, came into force July 1, as China faces increasing difficulty in caring for its aging population.

The amended law does little to change the status quo, however, because elderly parents in China already have been suing their adult children for emotional support and the new wording does not specify how often people must visit or penalties for those who do not.

It is primarily aimed at raising awareness of the issue, said one of the drafters, Xiao Jinming, a law professor at Shandong University. "It is mainly to stress the right of elderly people to ask for emotional support," he said. "We want to emphasize there is such a need.".

Cleaning lady Wang Yi, 57, who lives alone in Shanghai, said the new law is ''better than nothing." Her two sons work hundreds of miles away in southern Guangdong province and she sees them only at an annual family reunion.

"It is too little, for sure -- I think twice a year would be good," she said. "We Chinese people raise children to take care of us when we are old."

China's legislature amended the law in December following frequent reports of elderly parents neglected by their children. It says offspring of parents older than 60 should see that their daily, financial and spiritual needs are met. Although respect for the elderly is deeply engrained in Chinese society, three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of China's traditional extended family, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement homes.

The number of people aged 60 and above in China is expected to jump from the current 185 million to 487 million, or 35 percent of the population, by 2053, according to figures from the China National Committee On Aging. The expanding ratio is due to an increase in life expectancy -- from 41 to 73 over five decades -- and family planning policies that limit most urban families to a single child.

Zhang Ye, a 36-year-old university lecturer from eastern Jiangsu Province, said the amended law is "unreasonable" and puts too much pressure on people who leave home in search of work or independence.

"For young people who are abroad or work really far away from their parents, it is just too hard and too expensive to visit their parents," she said. "I often go to visit my parents and call them ... [but] if a young person doesn't want to, I doubt such a law will work."

intelligencer


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