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The Strange Laws of China

Being a law-abiding citizen comes easily in some countries, and is a little more difficult in others. This is especially so if you happen to live in a country that enforces some pretty difficult and bizarre laws.

China, with its long and complex history and politics, is no stranger to strange laws. But thankfully, some of these weirdest laws are no longer enforced, though it still makes for some interesting dinner-time trivia.

Visit your parents or be fined or jailed

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Image Credit: Flickr

You may be familiar with the Confucian virtue of filial piety, or you may be impressed by close ties that the Chinese seem to have with their parents. But what if a virtue is turned into a law?

A few years ago, China decided that they needed an Elderly Rights Law due to its increasing number of lonely elderly folk.

As the youth leave homes to look for work in the cities, the elderly are left behind, and children may not be visiting them as often as they should. Whether it’s due to the sheer lack of time due to high-pressure working environments, or bad relationships with the folks, parents can still sue their children if they don’t visit.

Enforcing such a law is difficult. After all, what is the definition of often and how are law enforcers going to monitor family visits?  However, the fact that such a law was passed is itself a revelation to how the Chinese government sees itself as a regulator of private family matters and how serious the aging population could be. 

According to Chinese government statistics, the number of people aged 60 years or older could be over 350 million people by 2030.  More than 178 million people in China were 60 years or older in 2010. By 2030, that figure will double

In Shanghai, children found guilty of not visiting their parents enough could be entered into a credit score blacklist, which will make it difficult for them to open bank accounts or apply for loans.

One-Child Policy, and now Two

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Image Credit: Flickr

The notorious one-child policy of China has sparked much debate and gained worldwide attention in the decades since it was first implemented. In 1979, the one-child policy was enforced to curb the rapid population growth of the most populous country in the world.

An entire generation of Chinese children would most likely have grown up without a sibling, and coupled with the rising affluence of the middle-class, it’s no surprise to read and hear mixed reports of children who are spoiled and bratty or under pressure to shoulder the responsibility of caring for elderly folks all by himself or herself 

The violence of forced sterilizations has also traumatized families, as well as the high price to pay for bringing up an “illegal” second child through fines, unemployment, and children not receiving official residency status. 

The harsh policy was estimated to have prevented about 400 million births, but with that comes the issue of an aging population. China has since relaxed its stance and parents can have two children if one of them comes from a one-child family. 

Salute a passing car in Guizhou

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Image Credit: New York Times


This isn’t a national law and in fact, seems to be only applicable to children of Luolang Elementary School. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting one that gives some food for thought.

School children were apparently required by local laws to stop and salute passing cars on the street. The reason? To show courtesy and to reduce the number of road accidents. What seems like a rather unusual way of increasing road safety also had some detractors saying that it was a move to establish respect for authority, more than a real effort to improve safety, which could have been done so by having speed bumps, cameras, or fines.

You certainly don’t have to salute any cars as you travel around, but don’t be surprised if you do find children stopping for a salute. 

Don’t get hit by a vehicle, or else…

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Image Credit: Wikimedia

Speaking of road safety, the Hit-and-Kill urban legend is a controversial one.

Videos and articles have circulated online, revealing how drivers who have hit a poor innocent pedestrian repeatedly run their victim over to make sure that they’ve been killed instead of being, you know, just injured.

It is said if you disable the person, you’re liable for the victim’s medical expenses for his or her whole lifetime, so it’s more “economical” just to kill the victim and pay a once-off compensation cost. This is a case where a victim compensation law may backfire in the worst possible way. 

While cases like these are definitely uncommon, you should err on the cautious side and be extra mindful when crossing roads in China.

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About the author

Tilda is a happy sufferer of chronic wanderlust. When she isn't spending a disproportionate amount of time Googling about places and cultures, she's writing, dancing, and navigating a massive career change. She shares stories and photography on Wanderful People, and shares her coffee with no one.

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