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Filial Piety, Where Art Thou? Debate on Care for Elderly Parents Reignited

An elderly couple forced to sleep outside their son’s door has reignited the debate over how China’s young cares for its elderly. As of May 1st, Shanghai residents who do not regularly visit their parents will be punished by getting black marks on their credit scores.

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An elderly couple forced to sleep outside their son’s door has reignited the debate over how China’s younger generations care for their elderly parents. As of May 1st, Shanghai residents who do not regularly visit their parents will be punished by getting black marks on their credit scores.

For 77-year-old Zhu Sulan and her husband, life is anything but peaceful. The elderly couple has been sleeping in the hallway outside their son’s apartment for days, after he refused to take them in. In what can be termed an absurd situation, the son has been missing from his home and apparently stayed elsewhere until his parents go away. In the meanwhile, the frail couple has set up their temporary shelter in the hallway, refusing to move until their son takes them in.

The old couple’s misfortune began when their eldest son (aged 26) lost his house due to demolition. Mrs. Zhu and her husband were then asked to stay with their other son. Since their arrival, their son’s refusal to take them in has left them with no other option than to stay outside his door. The couple has four sons and one daughter who all turn a blind eye despite knowing the condition their parents are in. Additionally, according to Shanghaiist‘s Kitty Lai, Mrs. Zhu revealed that their children have been engaged in a bitter dispute over ownership of three apartments registered in their parent’s names.

Filial piety? Never heard of it!

In the recent past, a growing number of incidents have highlighted cases of neglect and lack of respect from children towards their elderly parents in China. A Chinese farmer named Chen Shoutian from Guanyun County in Jiangsu province, came under attack in 2012 for keeping his 100-year-old mother in a pigsty for two years.

sad_momMum in the trunk of the car, via Shanghaiist.

A certain Mr. Liu was branded ‘Public enemy No.1‘ in 2015 for putting his old mother in the trunk of the car to give his son more room to stretch his legs in the backseat. It was revealed that the car was bought by the old lady for her son with her life savings.

The virtue of filial piety

For a country that still values Communism, China has managed to preserve many of its old traditions and cultural practices, chief among them being the virtue of filial piety. Xiao (孝) or filial piety, a virtue of respect for one’s father, elders, and ancestors, is an important part of the Confucian vision of societal harmony. According to Confucian tradition, the Five Relations that are central to society are those:

• Between the ruler and the people
• Husband and wife
• Father and son
• Elder brother and younger brother
• Older friend and younger friend.

These hierarchical relationships have set the precedent on which relations and communities in China were built. Along with a changing China, these patterns are now changing too.

State-led filial piety campaign

China’s rapid urbanization has altered structures of the traditional joint family unit. China’s younger generations are dynamic, ambitious and ready to leave their hometowns for greener pastures. The PRC’s large-scale rural-to-urban migration has led to a growing number of Chinese elderly who are not supported or cared for by their children.

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Statistics from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2013 estimated that China had around 200 million Chinese over the age of 60 years, accounting for 14.8% of the total population. By 2050, the projection shows a rise up to 438 million or one-third of the total population.

Following China’s growing problem of an ageing population, the government passed the law called “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People” law in 2013. According to New York Times, the law has nine clauses laying out the duties of children and their obligations to tend to the “spiritual needs of the elderly”. Along with some vague measures, concrete steps have also been initiated like providing a basic living and medical care for the elderly through the pension and healthcare scheme.

Already since 2011, the Party has been making efforts to promote the values of filial piety; the “special committee of filial piety” then announced its training program aimed to help 1 million children between the ages of 4 and 6 learn about filial piety through stories and games. Volunteers would check the children’s performance over three years to ensure they internalized the values. The programme caused a lot of commotion with some voicing support for the training, and others dismissing it as a silly exercise that overemphasized parent’s authority and turned children into robots.

The state-led campaign for filial piety was taken to the next level in April 2016 when Shanghai’s Municipal People’s Congress announced new regulations to encourage people to frequently visit elderly parents and ensure they are cared for; Shanghai residents who fail to visit their elderly parents regularly may have their names added to a credit blacklist that could make it difficult for them to apply for jobs and loans, and even impact their eligibility for welfare. The regulations will take effect on May 1st of this year.

Time will tell if the official promotion of filial values will really help solve the issue of changing dynamics in China’s elderly care today.

“What if your parents are abusive alcoholics?”

The topic became a point of discussion on Chinese social media. Most netizens disagreed that children should keep on visiting their parents no matter the circumstances. “If your parents did not look after you when they were younger,” one netizen comments: “you can now treat them the same, right?”.

“But what if your parents are abusive alcoholics? What if they forced their daughter into marriage because of their own gambling debts? What if she suffered long-term sexual abuse by the father?” one other Weibo user wondered.

Others complained about the fact that there was simply no time to see their family: “Only for Chinese New Year’s we get 15 days off, and then we are supposed to see our parents and enjoy our holiday and for the rest there is no other free time to do anything but working overtime, working overtime, working overtime!”

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Another Weibo user clearly opposes the new law: “This society obviously does not have the right social environment for the joy and happiness of family life, but still the government requires people to act this way. I really don’t know why the government always wants to oppose to what people want; our lives are already tiresome, and not very free, okay ? Why would you add to this by implementing some strange regulations that further limit us?”

– By Mahalakshmi Ganapathy

Weibo comments & editing by Manya Koetse.
Image by Qianzhan News.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

About the author: Mahalakshmi Ganapathy is a Shanghai-based Sinologist-to-be, pursuing her graduate degree in Chinese Politics at East China Normal University. Her interests include Sino-India comparative studies and Chinese political philosophy.

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China Health & Science

‘Two Sessions’ Proposed Ban on Single Women Freezing Their Eggs

Weibo talks egg freezing.

Manya Koetse

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It was the number one trending topic of the day on Weibo earlier this week: the proposal to make it illegal for hospitals and clinics in China to provide the service of freezing eggs to unmarried women.

Chinese physician Sun Wei (孙伟), National People’s Congress delegate, is the person to raise the issue of no longer allowing medical facilities in China to freeze eggs. She is the director of the Reproductive Medicine Unit at the No.2 Affiliated Hospital of Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Sun Wei submitted the proposal during the Two Sessions (lianghui), China’s largest annual legislative meetings, in order to encourage Chinese citizens to “marry and reproduce at the appropriate age.” Sun also mentions potential health risks as a reason to ban egg freezing services.

On Weibo, one news post reporting on the issue received nearly 835,000 likes. The hashtag “Proposal to Prohibit Single Women From Freezing Their Eggs” (#建议禁止单身女性冷冻卵子#) received over 710 million views.

Sun Wei (image by Vista看天下).

The proposal goes against the proposition of a National Committee member during the lianghui, that of Peng Jing (彭静), that supports single women’s rights in freezing their eggs.

It also comes after the 31-year-old Teresa Xu (Xu Zaozao) filed a lawsuit against a Beijing medical facility in December of 2019 for refusing her the treatment of freezing her eggs, arguing it was effectively discriminating against single women. In doing so, Xu challenged China’s regulations on human assisted reproduction, which bar single women from getting the procedure.

Artificial insemination itself is not illegal in China when it is done by a married couple; it is only against the law when done by those who are not lawfully married.

It is not the first time the discussion on egg freezing erupts on Chinese social media. In 2015, Chinese actress and director Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾) stated in an interview that she had nine eggs frozen in the United States at the age of 39, calling them her “back-up plan.”

Xu’s statement made artificial insemination an issue of public interest, especially because unmarried women in China cannot carry out this procedure.

Although single women in China technically could have their eggs frozen – if they have the financial capacity to do so – they would not be able to have them inseminated unless they provide three certificates: their identification card, their marriage certificate, and their ‘zhunshengzheng‘ (准生证 ) – the ‘Permission to give Birth’, which would not be issued without the marriage certificate. In short: single women would not be able to have a baby through artificial insemination, because they would not be able to get the required legal papers to go through with the procedure.

At the time of the 2015 discussion, the famous Chinese blogger and writer Han Han (韩寒) shared his thoughts on the issue: “Why can’t women decide for themselves whether or not they want to have children? And what if an unmarried woman does get pregnant, and they don’t get a ‘Permission to give Birth’? Then the child cannot even get a residence registration.”

“Why should having a baby be bound together with marriage? Even I, a simple straight guy, cannot see the logic in this,” Han Han wrote.

In the discussions that are going around Chinese social media this week, there are many netizens that take a similar stance as Han Han did, arguing that single women should have the right to freeze their eggs, and wondering why they would not be allowed to do so in the first place.

Various Weibo commenters write that individuals should have the right to make their own decisions about whether or not they would like to have children. One Weibo thread where people are asked about their opinion on the matter, the majority of the 16,000+ responses say they support single women being able to freeze their eggs.

“[I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it], [I] support [it]…” – this Weibo user clearly thinks single women should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to freeze their eggs.

However, there are also some web users opposing this idea, arguing that it is “not morally right” and does not provide a “normal family environment” to children.

Whether Sun Wei’s proposal will lead to actual changes in the law is yet to be seen, although it would virtually not alter the current situation regarding egg freezing in China. It already is virtually impossible for unmarried women to freeze their eggs as a “back up plan” and it would just make the impossible even more impossible.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions from Jialing Xie

Featured image Photo by 东旭王

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

Schools in China Are Reopening, But Will Lunch Breaks Ever Be the Same Again?

Chinese students are back to school, but school life is not back to normal.

Manya Koetse

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As most schools across China are opening their doors again, social media users are sharing photos of what school life looks like in the post-COVID-19 outbreak era this week.

Some videos and images that are circulating on Weibo and Wechat show somewhat dystopian images of the post-COVID-19 school life at primary and (senior) high schools – students eating while standing outside in straight lines, or pupils wearing face masks taking turns to eat their lunch (supposedly to reduce the chances of contagion via respiratory droplets, see tweeted video below).

Most schools in China have already started or will open later this month. Only Hubei province and Beijing have not yet announced school reopening plans, Caixin reports.

But although China is gradually back to business after its weeks-long coronavirus lockdown, daily life is far from normal as the country remains on high alert for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Schools are therefore also taking strict precautions to reduce infection risks both in and outside of the classroom.

Lunch break policy and procedures are just one of the many things that have changed at Chinese schools now.

On Weibo, ‘Henan Education’ is one of many accounts posting about the dramatically different way of eating at China’s school canteens in these post-COVID-19-outbreak times.

In Xingyang city, for example, special supervisors have been allocated to high schools to maintain the order and reduce the number of students gathering at the school entrances and assist students with lunch break seatings at the canteen.

Canteen at Xingyang’s Second Senior High School

At a senior high school in Kaifeng, all students have their lunch breaks in the canteen at one side of the table only, leaving enough space in between the other students.

Other schools have set up their canteens like examination rooms, only allowing one student per table, only facing one direction.

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One Weibo user posts how her Tianjin school is preparing for the lunch break arrangements, with indicators on the floor marking the direction students should walk in and the distance they have to keep from each other.

One other school in Jiangsu’s Huai’an has put dividers on all lunch tables to separate students while having their lunch break.

“It feels like taking exams,” some commenters write about the new lunch break policies. “We can no longer look around and whisper in each other’s ear.”

One school board in the city of Beihai has decided to make use of its new separating screens to stimulate more studying during lunch breaks; they have printed study material for the upcoming ‘gaokao‘ exams on the dividers.

Some netizens think that other schools will follow this example if it appears to be effective. In that way, the post-COVID-19 lunch break will turn into just another study opportunity.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
With contributions from Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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