Gov't mulls new rules to protect children's rights

By Hu Yinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-25 07:07

Nineteen central government departments yesterday launched a national campaign to provide better protection for minors, a major part of which is to crack down on the use of child labor.

At its opening session, Gu Xiulian, vice-chairwoman of the NPC Standing Committee, said the protection of minors was "a requirement necessitated by the construction of a harmonious socialist society".

China has more than 340 million minors who account for 26.1 percent of the population.

The fight against the use of child labor is an integral part of the revised Law on the Protection of Minors, which will go into effect on Internattonal Children's Day next Friday.

"Enforcement mechanisms and legal responsibilities were not clearly defined in the past," Zhang Xiaoliang, head of the Communist Youth League Central Committee's rights protection division, told China Daily. "This undermined the operability of the law, and caused a series of other issues."

"They are now," he said.

The current law on the protection of minors has been effective since 1992. Its amendment began in 2003, and was passed by the nation's top legislators in the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee last year.

In conjunction with criminal laws, legislators clarified for the first time the respective responsibilities of law enforcement agencies, and strengthened punishment for employers of child labor, Zhang said.

"Child labor is a serious problem and an acute issue," he said, without providing official figures on the current number of child workers in the country.

An earlier research report by Lu Shizhen, vice-president of the China Youth University of Political Sciences, suggested that the country had about 2-3 million child laborers (aged under 16) at the end of the 1990s.

Although the number of child laborers declined over the past decade, there is still widespread employment of children in some manufacturing companies, especially in South China.

The television program News Probe on China Central Television, revealed in a May 2000 program that 84 minors under the age of 14, from Rongshui County in the southwestern autonomous region of Guangxi, were detected as being illegally employed at a lamp mill in Dongteng, Zhejiang Province. During a clampdown operation, inspectors stopped a man who was allegedly about to take 31 children he had kidnapped from Rongshui to the Zhejiang mill.

"These things still happen but people are working very hard to stop them from happening," Zhang said.

(China Daily 05/25/2007 page3)

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