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Nearly 10 percent of the 1.3 billion people who live in China are over the age of 60. (Floresco Productions / Getty Images)

Visit Your Mom—It’s the Law!

A new law in China requires adult children to visit and call their parents

By Laura Leigh Davidson | July 18 , 2013

Have you ever made a birthday card for your mom or dad? In China, sending cards like these to parents might become mandatory.

As in many countries throughout the world, respecting one’s parents is an important value in China. (A value is a moral rule or standard of behavior.) Chinese culture is known for the care that adult children lavish on, or give, their elderly parents.

But China has gone through major changes over the past 30 years. Many young adults have left the rural villages where they grew up to work in China’s cities. Many adults in China no longer live in the same town as or even near their parents.

Nearly 10 percent of the 1.3 billion people who live in China are over the age of 60. A recent study by the Chinese government showed that many of the country’s elderly live in poverty. They are also lonely, because they rarely see their children.

So, earlier this month, the government enacted a law called the “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People.” The law says children should go home “often” to visit their parents and occasionally send them greetings, such as a note or card.


What the new law means is still unclear. The law does not say how many visits or calls to a person’s parents are required. It also does not describe the proper punishment for failing to visit or call.

In the first case filed under the new law, a Chinese court ordered a daughter and her husband to visit her elderly mother, who is 77 years old, at least once every two months. The court asked that the couple spend at least two public holidays with the mother every year. It also ruled that the daughter and son-in-law could be fined or even detained by police if they fail to visit. Many people say they cannot take time away from work to meet the requirements of the new law. China is a huge country, and sometimes it can take days of travel to visit parents.

The Chinese government has released nine guidelines describing what its idea of good behavior toward aging parents is. Here are some of them, as translated by The New York Times:
  • Call one’s parents once a week.
  • Take one’s parents frequently to medical checkups.
  • Make sure one’s parents are never short on pocket money.
  • Take pictures of one’s parents often.
  • Teach one’s parents how to use the Internet.

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