Chinese Mother Wins Suit Against Daughter to Force Visits Home and Financial Support

by Courtney Gould Miller
July 10, 2013

Think your parents put pressure on you to visit home?

In a recent case in China, one mother brought suit in the eastern city of Wuxi to have a court order her daughter to visit her once every two months (and at least two public holidays per year), as well as compensate her financially. And amazingly, she won.

The suit was based on the new PRC Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People, which states that “family members who live apart from their parents should often visit or send regards to their parents.” The law also says that adults should care about their parents “spiritual needs” and “never neglect or snub elderly people.”

Liuzhou woman sewing

While such a law could seem preposterous in most Western countries, Chinese culture has its roots in the Confucian tradition of filial piety. Confucianism dictates that children show absolute respect to their parents, taking care of them in their elderly years. In many Chinese families, parents live with their child’s family until death. Even after death, Confucianism requires honoring elders–Tomb Sweeping Day is still celebrated in China every April to commemorate ancestors.

As you might expect, children with aging parents are not too happy about this law. A BBC article quotes: “‘Who doesn’t want to visit home often? What is considered ‘often’? Who will oversee the process?’ complained one poster on weibo, China’s version of Twitter. ‘We all know to cherish our elderly parents, but sometimes we are just too busy trying to make a living and the pressure is too much.'” Little vacation time as well as skyrocketing cost of living and travel in China allow for few visits home, especially when children have moved to large cities from the countryside to find work.

The kids have a point–like many Chinese statutes, the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People is extremely vague in its requirements and punishment. Yet the recent ruling shows that the judiciary is not afraid to interpret or enforce it. This law would not find much support in individualistic Western cultures, but China’s collectivist, family-based culture agrees that respect for elders is important for society to maintain and even mandate.

Want to read more? Check out these news articles about the Elder Law and the recent case enforcing it from the BBC, USA Today, and Bloomberg.

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