Been to visit your mum recently? If you are living in mainland China: you could end up with a fine or worse if you haven’t.
Or so says Zhou Qiang from the eastern city of Wuxi, who on July 2 became the first judge to apply the new Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly.
Zhou acted only hours after the legislation came into force.
“In recent years, the court has seen an increasing number of cases in which senior citizens have sued their children over a lack of emotional support,” Xinhua quoted Zhou as saying. “However, their demands lacked a legal basis until mandatory requirements on visiting were added to the Law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly.”
Chinese legislators ratified a version of the law last summer but the newest iteration makes children responsible for their parents’ mental health as well as their physical and financial wellbeing.
The case Zhou presided over saw 77 year-old Mrs Chu sue her daughter for not visiting her for nine months, following a row. Judge Zhou ordered that the daughter (and her husband), who live 40km away, should visit Mrs Chu twice a month, in addition to three other visits a year during major festivals or public holidays.
WiC imagines that the each visit will be a warm family occasion.
But the ruling is already proving controversial.
“It’s so sad that we now need law to enforce basic morals,” wrote one netizen on Sina Weibo. Others complained the law was unclear. “What does ‘visit your parents regularly’ mean,” asked one, before adding “More clarity please!”
Others who lived far away from their parents said the law only added to their guilt about not going home more often. “If employers don’t give us the time off this law will change nothing,” wrote one.
As is often the case in China a few enterprising souls were soon ready with a solution. Taobao, China’s popular shopping platform, saw a spike in ads for companies offering to check on parents for a small fee.
“Did you remember your parent’s birthday? Are they turning on the air conditioning during these hot days?” asks one commercial for a Beijing- based service. “Don’t let the new law become a liability,” it advises. “As a customer’s representative we will visit parents, chat with them, teach them how to use computers, and help them receive digital messages from their children.”
Birthday gifts and taking parents out cost extra, it added.
Many people outside China have been non-plussed by the new legislation.
But at least it has garnered a few fans – Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens for one. Inferring he was getting on a bit himself, Stephens described the law as a “Chinese innovation” and “something I could vote for”.
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