Prof Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, Chairman of the Elderly Commission, Hong Kong SAR and Chair Professor and Director of Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies (APIAS), Lingnan University, has launched a new book co-authored with Dr Anna King-yung Tang, Wan Chai District Councillor, which advocates legislation for maintenance of parents to relieve the hardship of senior citizens in Hong Kong.
Entitled From Maintenance to Well-being: Negotiating Responsibilities in Supporting the Aged as in the Modern Chinese Culture, the new book suggests that by integrating the traditional Chinese moral values and modern legal system, and taking into account the factors of consanguinity, rationality and legality, legislation can help distribute the responsibility of maintenance of parents and monitor its implementation.
“Soaring costs of supporting the aged and the decline of traditional moral values have shifted the responsibility of providing for old parents from the family to the community at large,” Prof Chan said. “Hong Kong people’s reliance on public systems to support the livelihood of the elderly, shirking the responsibility of supporting one’s parents, does not only threaten the well-being of the senior citizens, but also increases the burden for all in society. It is time to re-think how the responsibility of supporting the elderly should be distributed.”
Dr Tang pointed out that while the traditional Confucian values of filial piety have imposed normative pressure for Chinese families to support their elderly members, the rise of individualism in Hong Kong as a result of Western cultural influence has substituted the traditional consanguineous relationship by relationship based on interest. In her opinion, while family ethics fail to oblige children to provide for their ageing parents, there is a dire need to regulate through legislation. She added that Singapore’s Maintenance for Parents Act is the world’s first case of employing legal means to mandate children to support their elderly parents. As Hong Kong shares a similar background, there should be some lessons to learn from Singapore’s experience in this regard.
The authors called for establishing the modern standards of providing for parents by reviewing the definitions of filial piety in Confucian traditions, and introducing family mediation to compensate the rigidity of the legal system in handling family disputes. By doing so, they believe, the clash between modern and traditional values in supporting elderly parents can be reconciled, thus ensuring the “wellbeing” of the elderly through “maintenance”.
A book launch ceremony was held on 26 June. Dr Leong Chi-hung, former member of the Executive Council and Legislative Council, and ex-chairman of the Elderly Commission, attended as the honourable guest.