China’s new elderly protection law (link in Chinese) is fairly blunt about what the state expects from its younger generations: “family members who live apart should often visit or send regards to their parents,” and citizens must refrain from “overlooking or neglecting the elderly.”
China’s traditional family-oriented society is becoming increasingly fragmented by rapid urbanization and a better-educated, wealthier younger generation. The country’s citizens over 60 will account for around 15% of the population this year—200 million people—and the proportion is growing as the one-child policy matures. There have been numerous reports of children neglecting their elderly parents—like a 100-year-old woman in the eastern province of Jiangsu who was forced by her son to live in an actual pigsty for two years.
However honorable the aims of the new law, netizens were unimpressed, calling it well-intentioned but poorly thought out. “Morality cannot be forced,” one micro-blogger said. Academics pointed out that the law doesn’t actually specify a punishment for those who break it, nor exactly what qualifies as “often.”
In the absence of effective legislation, some parents—like the father in the video below, from the eastern Chinese city of Ma’anshan—may just take the law into their own hands.