Everyone agrees that people should visit their aged parents regularly if they are living separately. But whether this requirement should be written into law is a controversial matter.
The proposed amendment to the law on elderly people has a clause that says independent children should visit their aged parents regularly and should not ignore their need for love and affection.
If the amendment is adopted, parents will be able to sue their children in court for not visiting them for a long time. The number of elderly couples not living with their children is rising, and the amendment could provide them with a legal weapon to defend their rights of being looked after - at least emotionally - by their children.
Some people call the amendment ridiculous and meaningless, because a legal code should not be aimed at mending broken relations between children and parents. They contend that most children try their best to take some time out of their busy schedule to visit their parents and most parents excuse their children for not being able to keep them company for long or regularly.
Hence, they say that even if the amendment is adopted very few parents will take their children to court for not visiting them for a long time or not fulfilling their emotional needs.
But such a legal provision will serve as a reminder to young couples that they have the obligation to meet the emotional needs of their aged parents irrespective of how busy they may be. Parents could even remind their sons and daughters of their legal obligation. Contrary to some people's fear that such a law will have serious consequences, it will only help consolidate the bond between most parents and children.
Filial piety was the most desired quality in a person in traditional Chinese culture; such a person was considered to have high moral integrity. Lack of respect for one's parents or aged relatives was considered an offence that entailed penalty.
No wonder, some people say that the amendment is an attempt to restore the old punishment. But let us not forget that a clause even in our modern law says that children have the obligation to provide for their parents.
The amendment comes at a time when the number of senior citizens in the country has reached about 167 million in China. These people need someone to talk with, someone to fulfill their emotional and spiritual needs.
With the number of senior citizens still rising, more will have to be done to meet their material, emotional and spiritual needs. The amendment clause is one such step.
(China Daily 01/08/2011 page5)