China to make visits to elderly parents compulsory

Friday, January 7, 2011

BEIJING - China plans to introduce a law that will make visits to the elderly parents by their children compulsory.

Under the terms of the draft legislation, elderly people who are ignored by their children can go to a court to claim their legal rights to be physically looked after, China Daily reported Thursday.

The current law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged will be amended to include the latest provision said Wu Ming, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

There has been no amendment since it came into effect in 1996.

When the new law takes effect, the court can no longer reject cases lodged by the elderly who lack proper care from their children, said Wu.

He said emphasis has been made in the document that family members cannot mentally ignore or isolate the aged, and children who live independently should often visit their parents.

China encourages local governments to give pensions to those above 80 years of age and offer free medical care to the elderly, he added.

In traditional Chinese culture, it is a moral requirement for children to take care of their aged parents. But now children are increasingly defying the tradition.

With China’s large elderly population, taking care of the aged has been a problem.

By the end of 2009, 167 million people were over the age of 60 and nearly 19 million were over 80, according to statistics released by the China National Committee on Ageing.

More than half of the people above 60 in China are living alone and things are worse in cities, where about 70 percent of the aged live alone, the statistics said.

Social care for the elderly has been included in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) so that the aged could enjoy the government benefits, Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo said.

China currently has more than 38,000 nursing homes with nearly 2.7 million beds, and over 2.1 million aged are receiving care, the ministry said.

Experts praise the trend of paying attention to the elderly care in China, but said the legal amendment is too difficult to enforce.

Qian Jun, a Beijing-based lawyer, told China Daily Wednesday that It is impossible to carry out the compulsory requirement to visit elderly family members because it violates personal liberty.

It would be better to strengthen moral education than to force people to do something legally,” Qian added.

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