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China passes legislation requiring adult children to care for elderly parents

China's National People's Congress (NPC) [official website] on Friday passed amendments to a law allowing elderly parents to file suit against their adult children if they feel they have been neglected or abandoned by them. While the law mandates [BBC report] that adult children must visit and assist elderly parents on a regular basis, it provides no express provisions for the frequency or nature of such visits. The law comes in the wake of a paradigm shift in Chinese demographics [BBC report], where life expectancy has increased from 43 to 73 in the past five decades. Experts have stated [BBC report] that by 2050 more than a quarter of the Chinese population, already tallied at over 1.34 billion, will be over 65 and care must be shifted to younger generations. In addition, Chinese newspapers are allegedly replete with reports of abuse, neglect and abandonment of elderly parents by adult children. The law seeks to remedy the situation while providing elderly parents with a means of protecting their assets and property from children that seek to take advantage of their elderly state.

China has passed several other measures in response to social issues and demographic shifts. In October, the NPC adopted the nation's first mental health law to protect the rights of the mentally ill, according to a report by the country's state-run news agency. The new law was designed to protect the safety and privacy of individuals with mental illnesses and specifically targeted protection of the identities and personal information of individuals receiving care in psychiatric facilities. In April 2009 the Chinese government issued [JURIST report] its first national plan aimed at protecting human rights. The plan set forth measures to protect people's rights to education, employment, medical and old-age care, and housing, and also sought to protect ethnic minorities, promote gender equality, guarantee suspects the right to an impartial trial, and prohibit illegal detentions and the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects. In addition China also sought to provide basic nationwide health care, slow its greenhouse-gas emissions, and protect normal religious activities.

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