BEIJING - While many people have applauded the intentions behind a proposed amendment to the law that would make it compulsory for children to visit their parents, there are concerns about its feasibility.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, is seeking opinions and suggestions about the revision to the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Aged, enacted in 1996.
Under the proposed amendment, it will be a legal requirement for children to visit their parents frequently, and parents will be able to sue their children for not visiting.
Recent research from the Laboratory of Mental Health under the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that nearly 40 percent of elderly people living in Chinese cities are suffering from feelings of depression, a significantly greater proportion than reported such feelings 20 years ago.
In conducting the study, researchers looked at more than 4,900 people aged above 55 in 29 prominent cities.
Researchers said more of the elderly now live apart from their children in "empty nests".
Taking care of the elderly is a growing problem in China. Data from the latest census, released by the National Bureau of Statistics in April, shows that there are 177.6 million people above the age of 60 in China, 13.26 percent of the total population, up 2.93 percent from the previous census a decade ago.
More than half of the people above 60 in China are living alone and the situation is worse in cities, where about 70 percent of the aged live alone, according to statistics released by the China National Committee on Ageing.
"The current ethical level of our society is actually pretty low for historical and economic reasons. It's a reality that many children are neglecting their aged parents," said Jiang Ming'an, a law professor for Peking University. A lot of people agree that the revision, which includes a moral code, is necessary.
"I applaud the revision because by writing it into law it obliges children to care for their parents more and visit them more. At the moment a lot of the aged do not get enough time with their kids, who, for various reasons, visit parents very little," said Wang Dan, a 27-year-old resident from Nanjing.
However, some people, though agreeing with the good intentions behind the law, think it is too vague and may be difficult to implement.
"Emotionally I think it's a good thing to tell young people to visit their parents more often. But how often is often? Will the court give a specific number of visits a month?" asked Cheng Xi, a white-collar worker in Shanghai.
"Besides, I don't think our parents will go to court and sue their children for not visiting them enough."
Legal experts also question the legal necessity of an amendment.
Qian Jun, a lawyer from Beijing, said the amendment lacks feasibility since a lot of young people do want to visit their parents but lack the time needed to do so.
"I think it's a moral issue, and should not be made obligatory."
(China Daily 05/26/2011 page5)