Visit your parents -- or get sued by them

China cracks down on adult children who may be neglecting or possibly abusing their elderly parents.

By Kim Peterson Dec 28, 2012 1:06PM
Senior woman on wheelchair looking out of window with blinds -- Design Pics, Don Hammond, Design Pics, Getty ImagesIt's always good to visit Mom and Dad. In China, it's now a law.

The national legislature there is now requiring that adult children visit their parents often. Otherwise, elderly parents who feel ignored can sue their kids. Wow, dinner conversations must be pretty awkward in that scenario.

The law is partly a reflection of a cultural change in parts of the developing country. The traditional extended family in China is fading, according to the Associated Press. Historically in many Asian cultures, aging parents and grandparents live with a child or other family member. Sending a parent to a nursing home was just not acceptable -- nor was it affordable for many families.

But that's changing, particularly as China's elderly population rapidly expands. Lately, the Chinese government has seen a growing number of reports of elder abuse. State media carried the story of one son in the well-to-do province of Jiangsu who reportedly forced his elderly mother to live in a pig pen for two years, according to the AP.

Elder-abuse cases in Hong Kong have risen 15% in the last two years, the South China Morning Post reported earlier this year. "Because of Chinese culture, elderly people are reluctant to reveal the disgraceful affairs of their families," the director of one advocacy group, Against Elderly Abuse, told the newspaper.

The new law doesn't say how often children must visit their parents -- and there may not be enough grounds here for any resulting lawsuit. But China now has nearly 167 million people over age 60, the BBC reports. While the law is partially intended to sustain the family unity that may be starting to fray in China, it's also an attempt to ensure that the oldest and weakest members of society are cared for.

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