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Worrisome law revision   2012-07-02 11:05:00

  As our population grays, the well-being of senior citizens calls for careful consideration. The idea to update the current Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Seniors represents a sensible legislative response to the many challenges confronting the elderly.

  The 1996 legislation laid out a framework of basic guarantees for a senior-friendly society. But it has been a "soft" law, thanks to some unenforceable clauses, and one of the proposed revisions may well make it even softer.

  Under a proposed clause regarding those who live apart from their parents or other seniors whom they are obligated to take care of, people "should frequently visit their seniors, or send their concerns".

  True, more and more elderly people are living on their own in "empty nests", as more and more children leave their parents alone, as they pursue a career away from their parents' home.

  However, since the government has invested little over the years, and old-age guarantees remain poor in this country, it is impossible for many seniors to live decent lives without the support of their children.

  The current law actually features an explicit article that senior citizens should depend mainly on their family's support. But it is always tricky when it comes to defining such support.

  Leaving aside the debate over whether or not it is appropriate to legislate on what is essentially a moral matter, it is technically difficult, if not impossible, to legislate for people to visit their parents regularly.

  In the first place, how "often" is often enough? Once a year; once a month? It is obviously impossible to set a frequency in the law as people's circumstances are different.

  Since we already have powerful ethical codes and prevailing social customs that impose moral obligations on children to care for their parents, it is of little use to create legal stipulations that are ultimately not executable. It is better to let the matter remain in the domain of ethics.

  The more worrisome consequence of such a clause is it is impossible to enforce, it may give the wrong impression that not all laws are meant to be executed, and thus not to be taken seriously. This is a greater threat to society than people not visiting their parents frequently enough.


source : China Daily     editor:: Diana
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