A new "filial piety" law in China came into effect Monday, demanding that children regularly visit their parents and avoid "overlooking or neglecting the elderly" — though no punishment is specified.
The Chinese Elderly Protection Law or Article 17 drew swift critique from Chinese internet users, noted the South China Morning Post, as many questioned how exactly such a mandate would be enforced.
"The intention is good, but the method is bad. It is not suitable to use laws to regulate moral issues. Morality is not something we can force," said one commenter, according to the SCMP.
The elderly are a growing demographic in China, with 14 percent of the population over the age of 60, a partial result of the one-child policy. The UN estimates that by 2050, a hefty 30 percent of Chinese citizens will be over the age of 60, as compared to a world average of 20 percent.
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"The current revision looks more like a reminder for young people to refocus on the traditional values of filial piety rather than a compulsory law," said Peking University professor Xia Xueluan to the Associated Press.
According to James Huang of Taoism.net, the notion of filial piety is central to Chinese society, promoted by Confucius and the legions of philosophers and scholars who came after him.
Says Huang: "Filial piety consists of several factors; the main ideas include loving one's parents, being respectful, polite, considerate, loyal, helpful, dutiful, and obedient."
In the Analects of Confucius, the ancient Chinese scholar notes that "The gentleman devotes his efforts to the roots, for once the roots are established, the Way will grow therefrom. Being good as a son and obedient as a young man is, perhaps, the root of a man’s character."