Government offers nation's youth assistance
Chinese children, in their formative years, face a host of tough questions when growing-up. They range from making choices about education and handling peer pressure to facing the temptation of the Internet and so on.
In view of this, a document was released recently detailing a package of proposals from the Chinese Government to promote the healthy growth of youth in a rapidly changing society.
"It shows the government's unparalleled attention to young people," says Sun Yunxiao, vice-director of the China Juvenile Research Centre.
"Chinese minors are exposed to various values and thoughts due to the increasingly complicated social environment they live in, which can be quite misleading at a time when their personalities and values are forming."
China's 367 million youngsters under 18 account for nearly a quarter of the country's 1.3 billion population, and will become the backbone of society in the coming decade or so.
The document, issued by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council, devotes 23 pages to regulations and the measures they think should be taken to improve the ideological and moral conduct of minors.
The document calls for tough measures to ensure compulsory education for the children of the country's 100 million migrant workers, which refers to farmers who come to urban areas seeking work.
Under current conditions, the child of a migrant worker who is in a city without a registered permanent residency document will pay much more for tuition than "authorized" residents.
Although some schools have been set up to cater to these children, the education facilities are second-rate and the teachers are often unqualified.
Critics fear the failure to provide rural migrant children with a solid education will condemn their families to perpetual poverty or lead to unemployment and crime in the future.
While visiting a Beijing school that was established for migrant children, Premier Wen Jiabao stressed the importance of equal education opportunities.
For urban children, the Internet can be seen as a mixed blessing.
In September 2003, Beijing's Haidian District Court randomly surveyed 100 minors in custody and found that 66 per cent of them were frequent visitors to computer arcades. And according to the assessment, 30 per cent frequently visited Internet cafes and 61 per cent admitted to having visited porn websites.
Experts say that students in primary and middle schools are developing rapidly both physically and psychologically. They are sensitive and vulnerable, and struggling for independence - conflicts the Internet can satisfy.
Over-indulgence can create unhealthy outcomes. Last year, a 15-year-old boy in East China's Zhejiang Province committed suicide because his father criticized him for spending several days at Internet cafes.
In response to such problems, the document sets strict rules barring people under 18 from entering Internet cafes, in addition to introducing filtering systems to stop the viewing of pornographic websites and implementing inspections of gaming software.
"All in all, adults should shoulder more responsibility than juveniles, allowing society to join together to purify the social environment, crack down on corruption, cultivate patriotism and breed healthy habits from infancy," Sun says.
According to the government document, China will launch publicity campaigns to teach primary and middle school students to stay away from drugs, advocate science and civilization, and oppose superstition.
The central government also vows to offer financial subsidies to central and western areas and other poor areas for the construction of public venues for youngsters, and to formulate policies to encourage private investment in the projects.