Lawmakers order children to visit parents often
Elderly people who feel neglected can take their children to court.
BEIJING — Visit your parents. That’s an order.
So says China, whose national legislature on Friday amended its law on the elderly to require that adult children visit their aged parents “often” — or risk being sued by them.
The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur.
State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.
A rapidly developing China is facing increasing difficulty in caring for its aging population. Three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of the traditional extended family in China, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement or care homes, for the elderly or others unable to live on their own.
Earlier this month, state media reported that a grandmother in her 90s in the prosperous eastern province of Jiangsu had been forced by her son to live in a pig pen for two years. News outlets frequently carry stories about other parents being abused or neglected, or of children seeking control of their elderly parents’ assets without their knowledge.
The expansion of China’s elderly population is being fueled both by an increase in life expectancy — from 41 to 73 over five decades — and by family planning policies that limit most families to a single child. Rapid aging poses threats to the country’s social and economic stability, as the burden of supporting the growing number of elderly passes to a proportionately shrinking working population and the social safety net remains weak. By Ellen Barry and Kareem Fahim MOSCOW — Russia, Syria’s longtime ally, urged the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, on Friday to negotiate with his opponents as further signs emerged that Moscow and other international parties to the conflict were coalescing around the idea of a transitional government as a key to solving the nearly twoyear-old Syrian crisis.
During a news conference with his Egyptian counterpart in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had urged a visiting Syrian government delegation “to maximally put into action its declared readiness for dialogue with the opposition.” Lavrov also said Moscow had requested a meeting with Sheik Ahmad Moaz alKhatib, the head of the largest exile Syrian opposition coalition.
Al-Khatib, a former imam of the historic Umayyad mosque in Damascus, said that he was open to the idea of such a meeting but would refuse to travel to Moscow for it. He also said Russia must issue a “clear condemnation of the crimes committed by the Syrian regime.”
Though the United States, Britain and several Persian Gulf nations have recognized the opposition coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, Moscow has so far refused. In recent weeks, though, Russia has shown signs that it is distancing itself from Assad, though it maintains that his fate is a matter for Syrians to decide.
Speaking at the same news conference, the Egyptian foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, tried to highlight the common ground between the Egyptian and Russian governments, saying they both rejected any foreign intervention in the conflict and favored a political transition. He also said Assad had to leave Syria, revealing the wide gap in positions between Russia and other nations trying to mediate the crisis, a gap that may yet derail the talks.