Law­mak­ers or­der chil­dren to visit par­ents of­ten

El­derly peo­ple who feel ne­glected can take their chil­dren to court.

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS -

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.

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