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Law requires Chinese to visit their aging parents

By Louise Watt

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:18 a.m. HST, Jul 01, 2013

BEIJING » Mothers and fathers aren't the only ones urging adult children to visit their parents. China's law books 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 Monday (Sunday in Hawaii), 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 clarify 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 ... we want to emphasize there is such a need," he said.

Cleaning lady Wang Yi, 57, who lives alone in Shanghai, said the new law is "better than nothing." Her two sons work several hundred kilometers (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.

Xiao said even before the Law of Protection of Rights and Interests of the Aged was amended, there were several cases of elderly parents suing their children for emotional support. Court officials generally settle such cases by working out an arrangement for sons or daughters to agree to visit more frequently. Typically, no money is involved.

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 both an increase in life expectancy — from 41 to 73 over five decades — and by family planning policies that limit most urban families to a single child.

Rapid aging poses serious threats to the country's social and economic stability, as the burden of supporting the growing number of elderly passes to a proportionately shrinking working population and the social safety net remains weak.

Zhang Ye, a 36-year-old university lecturer from eastern Jiangsu Province, said the amended law was "unreasonable" and put too much pressure on people who migrate away from 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."

AP researchers Flora Ji in Beijing and Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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mikethenovice wrote:
If the old folks have money, the kids will a come on running to see them. Money talks.
on July 1,2013 | 07:57AM
Maili2 wrote:
Gosh, things are really bad when the government needs to intervene and force people to go see mom or dad. It's sad really.
on July 1,2013 | 07:59AM
HOSSANA wrote:
I think we have the same situation in our country where the old and aged are neglected by their children but, due to the economic depression and despite Obammy's urging that we are on the road to recovery, many of the children are seeing their parents ONLY to move in with them......so you have a 2-edge sword...oh, well.......one of these days, we will be at the short end and I hope our kids will visit us more than once on an annual basis to see to our physical, emotional, and financial needs....well, that's a fantasy.....!
on July 1,2013 | 09:05AM
steven_mark wrote:
Wow, what a cheap shot. Especially since the phenomenon of kids living with their parents has been going on for a long time, so much so that a the film comedy "Failure to Launch" was made about it in, wot, 2006? During, wot, the Bush administration?
on July 1,2013 | 10:04AM
mikethenovice wrote:
If the parents don't have money, or the kids are a punk, who would want them to reunite. After all, kids and parents are a separate entity.
on July 1,2013 | 08:01AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Punk like in wasted sperm.
on July 1,2013 | 08:02AM
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