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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: January 28, 2011 NO. 5 FEBRUARY 3, 2011
Should Care Visits Be Enforced?


The China National Committee on Ageing recently announced the revision of the law which protects the rights of elderly people was completed. Among the revised sections, a provision that grown-up children will have to visit society's elderly seniors more often was included in the draft law.

A new section was set up in the draft law, mainly aimed at very old people, the elderly who can't take care of themselves and those who don't live with their children. The draft law says "family members shouldn't ignore and isolate the elderly," and especially emphasizes "children who don't live with the elderly should visit and take care of them often."

If the draft law is passed, it is likely to regulate that younger members of society should visit the elderly more often, and the court will have to hear lawsuits about children not visiting parents where previously a court would not accept such actions.

This news aroused wide and heated discussion.

Supporters say they think adding a visiting requirement to the law shows caring from government and society for the elderly, which ensures the elderly's rights and shows a humane face of law.

Opponents say they think visiting parents is affected by time, location and other elements, and it shouldn't be forced by law. Some law experts think such a provision is not feasible at all and is an intervention of law in a field where morality is supposed to play its role.

Protecting rights

Ning Zhe (Wenhui Daily): The expression "empty nesters" usually means middle-aged or elderly couples whose children have grown up and left home, leaving them alone. As society is progressively ageing, there are growing numbers of empty nesters in China, which has created a big social problem that can't be ignored. Among China's 167 million ageing population, about half of them are empty nesters, whose rights can't be well protected. The draft law says family members shouldn't ignore and isolate the elderly, and especially emphasizes "children who don't live with elders should often visit and care for them." This new revision aims at protecting the rights of the elderly.

The traditional convention in China of the family supporting the elderly is gradually being transformed into society supporting the elderly. We need to strengthen the system of providing for the elderly by society through laws and regulations. What we have done is far from enough.

Legally regulating frequent visits gives the elderly legal rights and children legal obligations by promoting the development of filiality through legislation. From a certain perspective, it shows progress in China's legislative undertakings.

Tong Kezhen (www.youth.cn): When supporting elderly people is only an ethical obligation, empty nesters only get an ethical right to children's visits. Nowadays, the social ethic is guaranteed by moral order, which has huge power for filial children but little for those who are not. Therefore, some empty nesters can only wait and wait and finally, angrily sue children in court. But there were not any regulations about visiting the elderly and the court could only strive to conciliate them. If this is not successfully done, the situation will continue, with sad elderly people, unfilial children and an embarrassing situation for the law.

In a society under the rule of law, supporting the elderly should be regulated by relevant laws and regulations. Legally regulating visitation of the elderly is in accordance with their emotional appeals and psychological health. The hope, comfort and pride that one visit brings to elderly parents can't be replaced by any material objects when children know of this remedy.

Adding a regulation to enforce frequent visitation to the law gives the elderly a legal right and children a legal obligation. This will be a heartfelt event for children who don't visit. Their conscience over family love will be aroused and they will shed the misunderstanding that money or material objects are equal to filial respect. It's now widely acknowledged enabling parents' health is far more precious than giving them presents. The comfort of family love, the spiritual refreshment and happiness that one visit can give to elderly parents is immeasurable. Who won't applaud this law?

Hong Quanshou (People's Court Daily): Adding visitation to parents and the elderly to the new draft law is an inheritance of the tradition of respecting the old, which shows the humane side of the law. It means, in the future, respecting the elderly will not only rely on morality but be compulsory and based on legislation. If children fail to visit home often, elderly people can file a lawsuit and let justice and the law do its work.

As children, supporting parents and taking care of them very carefully when they are old are the least demand. It is also a request for the continuance of a harmonious society. Adding a provision to the law is necessary and is society's demand. It's also a positive response to social reality from the legislative area.

Useless regulation

Ma Yi (Jinan Daily): This is not a new move. Early in 2008, Liaoning Province had a similar regulation but it didn't work out in reality. The dispute triggered by this regulation comes from its lack of feasibility.

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