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Filial piety, once a virtue in China, is now the law

BEIJING — They are exemplars from folklore that are familiar to Chinese schoolchildren. There is the Confucian disciple who subsisted on wild grass while traveling with sacks of rice to give to his parents. There is the man who worshipped wooden effigies of his parents.

But Chinese officials apparently think it is not enough these days to count on tales and parental admonitions to teach children the importance of filial piety, arguably the most treasured of traditional virtues in Chinese society.

The government enacted a law Monday aimed at compelling adult children to visit their aging parents. The law, called “Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People,” has nine clauses that lay out the duties of children and their obligation to tend to the “spiritual needs of the elderly.”

Children should go home “often” to visit their parents, the law said, and occasionally send them greetings. Companies and work units should give employees enough time off so the employees can make parental visits.

The law was passed in December by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress. It does not stipulate any punishments for people who neglect their parents. Nevertheless, that officials felt the need to make filial duty a legal matter is a reflection of the monumental changes taking place throughout Chinese society.

Many aging parents in China, as in other industrialized nations, complain about not seeing their children enough. And the children say the stresses of daily life, especially in the rapidly expanding cities, prevent them from carving out time for their parents.

—Edward Wong, The New York Times

Japanese utility to seek to restart two nuclear reactors

TOKYO — The operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Tuesday that it would ask regulators to allow it to restart two reactors at a separate site in eastern Japan, even as problems with the company’s cleanup in Fukushima continue to multiply.

The request by the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., is expected to be among a flurry of such appeals from utilities seeking to restart reactors now that the government has approved tougher safety guidelines. The government hopes the regulations will help it overcome deep public concerns about nuclear power and government oversight.

The requests are expected to revive a debate in Japan about the future of nuclear power that has been relatively quiet for months as regulators worked on the new rules. Since the disaster at the Fukushima plant in 2011, only two reactors have been allowed to resume operations in an effort to head off electricity shortages, but the government and supporters of nuclear power say it is critical to the economy that Japan return to relatively cheap nuclear power rather than relying on costly natural gas and coal imports.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., known as TEPCO, said it would soon apply to restart two of the seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest nuclear power station by capacity. That plant, about 140 miles northeast of Tokyo, was not affected by the earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc at Fukushima Daiichi, but Kashiwazaki-Kariwa does sit atop fault lines and was damaged in a 2007 quake caused by another fault.

The company says it needs to get the reactors back online to stem the losses it has suffered since the reactor meltdowns at Fukushima.

—Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times

Suicide attack at Afghan base kills at least 9

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five suicide attackers struck a civilian base on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, early Tuesday, blasting their way into the compound and killing four security guards before the attackers were fatally shot.

The attack took place at 4:30 a.m. when a truck laden with explosives detonated at Camp North Gate, a base about 24 miles from Bagram Air Base that is primarily used to house employees of a military contractor, DynCorp International. Attackers then stormed the compound, but were shot by security officers in the ensuing firefight. Four Nepali guards and one Afghan security guard died in the fighting; five civilians were wounded.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series of assaults aimed at the capital. Last week, the Taliban launched a sophisticated attack against the presidential palace in Kabul, while insurgents killed as many as 17 people during a June 11 attack on the Supreme Court in Kabul.

With typical flair, a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the insurgents killed 33 people and wounded 44 others, vastly inflating the official casualty count.

The Taliban have kept up the pace of attacks in the capital, refusing to ease the pressure on the government at a time when a bid to restart peace talks has stalled in Doha, Qatar. The Taliban recently opened an office in Doha to facilitate peace talks, but hopes were quickly dashed after they raised their own flag and placed a sign that appeared to suggest that the office was akin to an embassy, infuriating the Afghan leadership.

“This attack has no connection to any peace process whatsoever,” Mujahid said in a statement. “We will continue our military operations until our country is liberated from hands of invaders.”

Violence has continued apace this summer, exacting a particularly heavy toll among Afghan police officers. The Interior Ministry said 299 officers had been killed from May 10 through June 13. During the same period, 617 police officers were injured.

While it is difficult to know the scale of the increase in Afghan police deaths over previous years (the Interior Ministry said it did not have the data), the increasing casualties come as Afghans have taken greater responsibility for handling security in the country, with coalition forces officially handing over responsibility last month.

—Azam Ahmed, The New York Times