World of Weibo

The parent trap

A debate on whether older child should be responsible for raising younger siblings

In a lawsuit that has sparked much debate, two parents sued their adult daughter, Lili, because she refused to raise her two year-old brother.

Lili’s parents are living on government subsidies and claim they are unfit to raise their new son. They want Lili to raise her younger brother. When she refused, her parents sued. Ultimately, the court in Guangzhou decided Lili had the obligation of taking care of her brother.

Three conditions must be met for an older child to be legally tasked with raising their younger sibling: the older sibling is able to shoulder the responsibility, the parents have already died or are incapable of child-rearing themselves, and the younger sibling is not of age. Under the law, Lili’s case met all three criteria.

“I sympathise with the sister’s predicament,” said a lawyer, who commented on the case on weibo. “She’s only 22, which is still young. But she’s already an adult, and under our country’s marriage law and the soon-to-be implemented civil code, if parents don’t have the caretaking ability, the older siblings must assume the responsibility of the caretaker.”

Lili cannot understand why her parents had another child if they didn’t feel they could raise it. “On what basis do I have to raise my younger brother? Even if you sue me, I won’t raise him!” she insisted.

Lili graduated from university this summer, paying for her education with scholarships and financial aid. Most netizens sided with her, lamenting her future prospects. “For marriage, men will take a girl’s family background into heavy consideration. This girl has a younger brother and old parents, and not a lot of men are willing to shoulder that responsibility. A girl who is just about to take flight, but her wings have been clipped, so cruel,” one wrote.

Other netizens cited the Two-Child Policy and a preference for male children as reasons for Lili’s circumstances. “In order to combat the aging population, people can now have a second child, but having one is expensive,” said one netizen. “Apart from the wealthy, only families who favour a boy over a girl are adamant about having a second child. The court sacrificed this girl’s future; society’s values have imprisoned her.”

However, there were a few contributors on social media who thought that some filial loyalty was due – less of a surprise in a society still steeped in Confucian values. “Your parents took care of you, and when you are able to do the same for your brother, shouldn’t there be a little duty to help the family?” asked one netizen.

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