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Why China Is Ordering Adult Children to Visit Their Parents

A mother and daughter stroll in Shanghai as a Chinese law requiring people to visit elderly relatives takes effect
A mother and daughter stroll in Shanghai as a Chinese law requiring people to visit elderly relatives takes effectPhotograph by Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

Pay a visit to Grandma and Grandpa—or else they’ll see you in court. In China, a new law went into effect on Monday requiring people to care for their elderly parents, with provisions calling for children to see them regularly, or at least call on the phone. The law is intended “to protect the lawful rights and interests of parents aged 60 and older, and to carry on the Chinese virtue of filial piety,” the official China Daily newspaper reports, and the legislation gives seniors leverage to use on offspring. “Parents whose children live apart from them and fail to visit regularly can ask for mediation or file a lawsuit,” the newspaper says.

What if grown-up children don’t live nearby? The new law takes care of that, with a requirement for employers to allow workers time off from work to visit their elderly parents—although, as Bloomberg News reported when the amendments to the law passed last December, nothing in the legislation specifies how often the visits should be. The law enables the elderly to seek legal recourse and prohibits “discrimination, insult, ill-treatment and abandonment” of the aged.