“China has for centuries prided itself on tight-knit families bound by filial piety, a Confucian concept that requires children to respect and take care of their parents for life.” Kids are even required to study virtuous examples of those who kept this ancient faith, but in today’s ever changing, competitive China, getting ahead often means leaving behind home, family, and tradition.
On Monday, China put into effect its solution: “Let parents sue their ungrateful offspring.” The legal avenue is included the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People, which instructs that “family members who live apart from their parents should often visit or send regards to their parents.” The law was greeted by ridicule and criticism by Chinese Internet users. After all, how does one determine just how often is often enough for visits, and more importantly, the law contains no specific punishment for being a bad offspring.
One Chinese mother did not wait long for justice. A Mrs. Chu, 77, convinced a court in the city of Wuxi to order her daughter to compensate her financially and also visit her once every two months (and at least two public holidays per year).
Experts say that part of the problem is the distorting effect of China’s “one-child policy” on a modernizing society whose 194 million citizens over age 60 have few progeny to rely on for aid and comfort in their declining years. A son or daughter may have to provide assistance to parents and grandparents who can no longer work, and do so without contribution from siblings.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese have moved to cities for work, leaving parents behind in the countryside. Xia suggests China must push companies rather than children to allow employees enough vacation time to visit their parents. “I think it’s necessary to make old people happier, but not in the form of a law,” said Zhang Xuebin, 35, a Beijing civil servant who visits his parents each weekend.
Not everyone, including the elderly, is in full support of this law. Song, 70, saw her son sporadically while she was at her home in central Shanxi province and he worked in Beijing. He eventually earned enough to buy the house where she joined him a decade ago. “If my son’s too busy to take care of me, I prefer a retirement home, it doesn’t matter. But I’ll be happier to live with him until I die,” Song said.
In recent years more sons and daughters have placed their parents in retirement homes because the children are too busy to provide regular care or visits, said Wang Yan of the Jiade retirement home in east Beijing. But China has a shortage of housing for seniors outside their family homes, so the law may help, Wang said. “In our home, some seniors lack both visits and calls. No matter how carefully we look after them, they still need their children’s love,” she said. “I think this is a moral not legal question.”
What do you think about this law? Is this a moral or legal question? Considering there are no concrete consequences for young people who do not follow the new law, is it even effective? Do you think the U.S. should have a law similar to this?
Article/Picture Source: USA Today