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Proposed Chinese Law Would Require Adult Children to Visit Elderly Parents Regularly

Last Updated: 1/6/11

Adult children in China would be required to visit their elderly parents on a regular basis under a proposed amendment to the nation's Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged.

Wu Ming, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, is reported as saying that the amendment would allow elderly parents ignored by their children to go to court to claim their legal rights to be physically and mentally cared for.

China has 167 million citizens over age 60, half of whom live alone without children and 20 million of whom cannot take care of themselves. In traditional Chinese culture, filial piety -- respect for one's parents and ancestors -- is one of the paramount virtues. But the longstanding tradition of children caring for aged parents is being challenged by history's largest human migration, in which 130 million Chinese have moved to cities in search of jobs, leaving nearly 60 million growing up apart from one or both parents, according to a recent article in the New Yorker. In effect, capitalism appears to be undermining traditional values, and the state's attempted solution is to legislate morality.

Wang Shichuan, a news analyst quoted by the site, questioned whether a moral issue is susceptible to a legal solution. Wang noted that many adult children work outside their hometowns and have little opportunity to visit their parents due to all-consuming jobs and few days off.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs is set to submit the proposed amendment to the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council in the near future, according to the news site Global Times.

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