China appears ready to legislate filial duty:
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.
This might be a good idea, since the lack of elder care is growing in China. But whatever it is, it is not Confucian.
Confucius, of course, urged children to care for their parents. Indeed, such care is the "root of Humanity" (Analects 1.2), the means by which we become fully moral persons. But Confucius also taught that the enactment of filial duty had to come from the heart, inspired by genuine love and concern. If we simply go through the motions, impelled to care for parents by legal sanction, we are not living up to our obligations:
When Adept Yu asked about honoring parents, the Master said: "These days, being a worthy child just means keeping parents well-fed. That's what we do for dogs and horses. Everyone can feed their parents - but without reverence, they may as well be feeding animals." (2.7)
And these days the widespread lack of reverence for parents in China requires that legal penalty, external to the conscience, be imposed in order to counteract the malign effects of elder neglect...