China Beefs Up Elderly Rights Law

An amended law took effect on Monday which requires adult children in China to visit their parents or face fines or jail time, though Louise Watt at the Associated Press reports that effectively implementing the new rules may be challenging:

[…] 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.

In the first ruling since the new wording, a court in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi ordered a couple to visit the woman’s mother or face possible fines — and even detention.

One of the drafters, Xiao Jinming, a law professor at Shandong University, said the new law was primarily aimed at raising awareness.

“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. [Source]

A recent study painted a bleak picture for China’s rapidly aging population, with a large portion of the elderly facing illness, poverty and other hardships, while the population pyramid is only expected to become more top-heavy. A 57-year-old cleaning woman in Shanghai said the law is “better than nothing,” according to the Daily Mail, while BBC News reported that One Beijing-based lawyer denied that the law is impractical:

Instead, it serves as an “educational message” to the public, while also serving as a starting point for law suits, explained Zhang Yan Feng, a lawyer with Beijing’s King & Capital Law Firm.

“It’s hard to put this law into practice, but not impossible,” Mr Zhang explained.

“If a case is brought to court on the basis of this law, I think it’ll probably end up in a peaceful settlement. But if no settlement is reached, technically speaking, court rulings can force the person to visit home certain times a month.”

“If this person disobeys court rulings, he could be fined or detained.” [Source]


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