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New guideline set to offer stronger child protection

By XU WEI | China Daily | Updated: 2014-12-24 07:41

Parents who sexually abuse or abandon minors will lose custody

Parents who sexually abuse or abandon their children will be stripped of custody rights, according to a new government guideline released on Tuesday, as authorities seek to curb violence against and abuse of children.

The guideline on the handling of legal guardians who infringe upon the rights of minors, jointly issued by the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, also stipulates that parents who sell their children or use violence against them will also lose legal custody rights.

"Legal guardians' abusing their children has become a very severe problem in society," said Hu Yunteng, a member of the judicial committee of the top court.

In one case in June 2013, two girls, 2 and 4, in Nanjing's Jiangning district starved to death at their home after their mother left them without care. The two girls' father was jailed for crimes. The mother, surnamed Le, had a history of drug use, local media reported.

The guideline lists seven instances in which the court can decide that the parent must relinquish custody, including leaving a minor without care and in danger of death or severe injury, or failure to assume the responsibilities of custody for more than six months.

Legal guardians with drug, gambling or drinking problems who cannot assume the responsibilities of guardianship, or who coerce children to beg, will also be forced to relinquish guardianship, according to the guideline.

Additionally, close relatives of children who are abused, including grandparents and elder brothers and sisters, can ask the court to require that the current guardians relinquish their custody rights.

Such relatives must assume custody responsibility when the custody right of the previous guardian is canceled. For children without an appropriate guardian, the court must designate civil affairs authorities as the guardian.

Schools, hospitals, residential committees and social service organizations must report to the police if they find that minors are being abused or left without care of their guardians.

Also under the guideline, the police must take children away from their guardians if they are in danger and need immediate protection. These children would then be transferred to child care centers under the civil affairs authorities.

Zhang Shifeng, director of the Civil Affairs Ministry's social affairs division, said the authorities will have to further beef up the capacity of child care centers in some areas to assume the responsibility of taking care of children without legal guardians.

The number of child care centers nationwide is still far from enough, Zhang said, and staff and professional caregivers are lacking.

"There are even some counties with no institute that offers protection to minor children," he said.

Meanwhile, another hurdle to authorities implementing the guideline is the traditional Chinese concept that it is the natural right of a parent to beat children, he said.

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