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Adult children of elderly parents will be required to visit their parents regularly and must care for their spiritual needs and cannot neglect or isolate them, according to a draft amendment of China's elder law, Legal Daily reported Wednesday.

In traditional Chinese thinking, children who have come of age have the duty to support and assist their parents. However, among the total number of 167 million elderly people, half of them are living alone without children, and some of them cannot even get good care, said the report.

An official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs said wherever conditions permit, they will be required to extend old age allowance to citizens over 80 and provide them free medical and other health services.

As for home-based care for the elderly, social institutions, volunteers and community workers will be encouraged to offer more door-to-door services according to the draft amendment, said the official.

China's current elder law, called the Law of the People's Republic of China on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, was adopted on Aug 29, 1996, and went into effect Oct 1, 1996.

By Li Xiaoshu

For parents who love him more than anyone else on earth, they sure had a funny way of showing it to Sun Liang.

They began intensely monitoring Sun at age 5 when he started painting and calligraphy, lashing him with a leather belt whenever he failed to meet their exalted expectations.

"Life is only meaningful for those who achieve real success!" they shouted at Sun, and "You're screwed if you can't stand out from the common herd!" whenever he failed to ace an exam.

As Sun grew older, the emotional battles escalated through cruel accusation and crueler counter-accusation, threatening each other's lives and sometimes even engaging in all-out fistfights.

They sat silent through every Chinese New Year 's Eve gala on State-run television while a miserable Sun mourned another year without lucky money.

Sun eventually grew big enough to smash every window in his parents' home and tried to commit suicide five times so far.

By rebelling against his parents' misguided tough love, Sun believes he fell into a trap of his own making, like "a snake eating its own tail."

He stopped eating regular meals, went to bed at random times and hurt himself as much as them. He refused to join the Communist Party and even celebrated his parents' divorce in 1998.

The next year he happily left for a Beijing university 3,800 kilometers from his hometown of Urumqi, capital city of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Blackmailing his father into mortgaging their family home with another suicide threat, he lost 80,000 yuan ($11,764) on the futures market in 2009.

"No matter how hard I try to rid myself of the damage they did to me, the devil's still lurking," said 28-year-old Sun.

"If I can't achieve anything with my life, it probably all boils down to my messed-up family."

Sun considered himself the world's unluckiest man until he joined the "anti-parents" group on social networking website Douban.com on August 19.

He found peers who had suffered even more traumatic childhood experiences: domestic abuse, bullying, intimidation, generation gap issues, excessive parental dominance, improper education and incest, according to the group's records.

Established on January 18, 2008, the bloc attracted more than 30,000 registered Internet users that either explicitly accuse their parents or share a curiosity about the issue.

"More than 50 percent of members were born in the 1980s while our denounced parents were born in the 1950s or 1960s," said Sun, his 54-year-old mother a teacher in a State-owned enterprise and his father, 56, an electrician in a property management company.

"We represent two iconic generations in modern Chinese history.

"Yes, some views are sharp, aggressive and radical … but the Internet is the last resort for lost souls like me who never had any other choice but to be wounded by deviant parents."
Inspired by the line "They f**k you up, your mum and dad" from the 2005 novel A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, an unnamed Internet user set up the league and invited the dark comedy's translator Zhang Kun to be group administrator.

"As we laid out our guidelines, members stated their opposition to the harm brought by pedantic, ignorant and unreasonable parents," Zhang said. "The so-called 'anti-parents' attitude merely aims for a better life."

In a country built on patriarchy where Confucian "filial piety" seems to have been seamlessly incorporated into mainstream Communist values, this kind of group garners little sympathy.

A list of bold assertions by "anti-parents" Douban group members supplied the Guangzhou-based liberal newspaper Southern Weekend with a fun controversy to manage in its July 7 edition.

Whining about your bad parents reflected "distorted social values" among a group of immature youth, said Wan Xiaoyang, an online commentator who often publishes articles on the website of Changsha-based Shian Kian Weekly Review.

"It's inappropriate for children to ask for absolute freedom, which may lead them down dangerous paths," Wan said.

"They don't understand the fact that all the decisions made by their parents came out of love and responsibility.

"Even animals are grateful to their parents. The anti-parents campaign is a heinous treason against good old Chinese spirit."

An "anti-anti-parents" group was founded on Douban.com on August 7 by Yang Mo, an office worker in Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong Province. It has 356 members.

"Their animosity is an albatross," she said. "Those anti-parents warriors are driven to invent ever-loopier rationales for denying respect for their parents.

"A few are simply wayward and self-centered. They not only spend their parents' money lavishly but also make harsh judgments.

"We should face the fact that life is what we make of it instead of blaming others, such as our parents, who are also too weak to avoid making mistakes."

Luo Yang, a 25-year-old primary school teacher in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, withdrew from the anti-parents group three days after entering and finally joined the anti-anti-parents group on August 6.

"The two landmark groups are two sides of the same coin," Luo said. "They both spark discussion about the deeper problems in the evolving parent-child relationship which is the fundamental unit of a transforming Chinese society."

"The larger picture behind the anti-parents trend represents the innate desire in an increasingly pluralistic society that human beings should develop in free, healthy and diverse directions after years of political, economic and cultural repression," said Zheng Xinrong, a sociologist at Beijing Normal University.

"Such a demand inevitably opposes a manipulative, unscientific and unitary style of education.

"The conflict between these two fundamental paradigms will eventually break open and fuel a systemic revolution."

Without love, such a revolution could prove a Pandora's Box, warned 54-year-old Liang Yixin, the oldest member of the anti-parents group.

She has tried many times to publicize her story online, but her posts are usually deleted for containing sensitive words like "Chinese Communist Party," "politics" and "revolution."

During the political campaign to purge China of capitalists in 1957, Liang's father was denounced as a rightist for a "bourgeois" marriage: He had married younger than the legal age.

To prove her political purity and correctness, Liang's mother divorced her husband and then waged "class struggle" on her own children.

Liang, her elder sister and brother spent most of their childhood reciting Mao Zedong quotations or being slapped about by a mother desperate to rid her family of that time's ultimate social stigma.

"She pulled a long face all day and humiliated us whenever we made any little mistakes. She beat us and even burnt us with fire tongs," said Liang, sobbing.

"She would kick us out of bed while we were fast asleep. If she found us studying at the desk, she would kick us away saying these things were her property, belonging to her and she was confiscating them back from us.

"She even locked up our food and clothes if we offended her."

On Liang's 16th birthday her mother discovered she had been secretly reading The Gadfly, a novel by Ethel Lilian Voynicha and condemned it as "vulgar and erotic."

She grabbed the book, tore it up and trampled over the ripped-up pages.

"In those years of fanaticism, I was not only discriminated against by others but also dictated to by my own strong mother, a devoted Maoist," said Liang, today a psychology lecturer in Hengyang, a prefecture-level city in Hunan Province.

"She was like a walking loudspeaker and I always felt like I was being seized and pilloried in front of the public.

"Inhuman political faiths enflamed persecution within households. It wasn't rare to see families becoming enemies in this absurd age. Just imagine what these broken-hearted parents brought down upon their children."

A Chinese culture professor at the Capital Normal University in Beijing sees the tension between parents and children on the mainland as "side effects" of decades of political and social upheaval.

"The current problem is a Chinese-made invention that requires collative introspection and confession," Tao Dongfeng said.

"Yet we elder generation will not easily drop our mindset even if someone held a gun to our head."

"By contrast, Chinese born in the 1950s who left for Hong Kong, Taiwan or emigrated to Western countries do not go through the same problems with their children."

Many headstrong fathers and mothers are in fact victims of the old system, said Sun Xiaoyun, deputy director of the China Youth & Children Research Center in Beijing.

"They swallowed up all the pressure in China's transition and now they feel lost in the new era," Sun said.

"On the other hand, parents with increasing spending power are buying up educational resources such as better schools, teachers and degrees to arm their children for fierce competition in a developing nation anxious for quick results."

The children themselves are victims too, explained Wang Zhanjun, an education expert who published his book Anti-parents? No in November and has offered free psychiatric treatment to parents and children since August 19.

China has more than 100 million "little emperors," the only child in families since the one-child policy was implemented.

Stereotypically portrayed as parents' desire for their child to experience the benefits they themselves were denied, a syndrome has emerged from this child's sole command of the attention of parents and grandparents.

The traditional Chinese family has collapsed into four grandparents and two parents doting on one child.

"This demographic reality is like a time bomb that gives the only child higher social expectations, rising economic burden and tremendous mental stress," Wang said.

Last month Liang Yixin's son Zhang Jianyong, a 26-year-old office worker in Shanghai, bought his mother an apartment with all his savings of more than 100,000 yuan.

"Other parents are able to financially support their children or give them a happy family, but I did nothing … I feel ashamed…" Liang sighed.

A similar shame dogged Sun Liang, 28, jobless, but applying for an accountancy certificate in September.

"My father almost gave up everything for me. I'll take him with me wherever I am, stay around him and learn to love him as a son."

Fast facts: Poisonous parents

An online poll conducted by Tencent.com on August 7 found 53 percent of 49,479 Internet users surveyed agreed "parents are poisonous."

Another survey conducted by the Social Research Center of Beijing Youth Daily in July among 3,120 people aged between 20 and 40 showed:

8.9 percent have frequent conflict with their parents

69.6 percent of young Chinese conflict with their parents

59.7 percent felt a generation gap

1 percent can't communicate with their parents at all

The top 10 poisonous habits according to the Douban anti-parents group are:

Physical abuse

Verbal insults

Domestic violence or quarrels between parents

Invading children's privacy

Ignorant and indifferent to children

Interfering in children's schooling and career choices

Forcing children to marry or carry on family line

Seeking and taking away children's property

Sex discrimination

Acting indecently towards children
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