Taking care of parents has long been a ‘moral’ responsibility above anything else. It’s not something that one usually attributes a legal commitment towards. However, in the land of the dragon, it may soon be the case that your elderly parent has the legal right to sue you for not visiting them often enough.
According to an SCMP article, a draft amendment of the 1996 ‘Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly’ is reported to include such a provision. It should be noted that this provision is not yet in effect nor indeed guaranteed to become law at any point in the future. SCMP goes on to say
The revision would for the first time provide a legal framework for the elderly to sue their children for failing to visit them, Wu Ming , deputy department head in the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said yesterday.
The Legal Evening News quoted Wu as saying the amendment would contain a new provision on spiritual support for the elderly in which “family members should not ignore and isolate the elderly, and they should come often to visit the elderly if they do not live under the same roof”.
While I understand the concept behind such a law, I fail to see how it will have any practical benefit. Indeed, if a child fails to visit their parents regularly, suing them is unlikely to make them any more willing. Quite the contrary, it would appear that someone being sued would bear resentment towards their parents. Even if they are forced to cover their parents cost of living, they are unlikely to have a sudden change of heart and visit their parents regularly out of love. If anything, it becomes just another mundane legal duty rather than a moral one.
The law might have good intentions, but it isn’t likely to improve anything.