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Juvenile delinquency sparks concern
Updated: 2004-06-04 14:31

Chinese society is becoming more and more concerned about the growing number of young offenders who seem to commit crimes more readily than ever.

China arrested 69,780 juvenile delinquents in 2003, up 12.7 percent over 2002, according to the Supreme People's Court, accounting for 9.1 percent of the total criminal suspects arrested.

A judge talks to two jailed youngsters at a prison in Rugao, east China's Jiangsu Province. Family, school and society form the environment where the minors live and the reason why youngsters tend to do illegal things is because there is something wrong with at least one of the three elements, said senior judge Shang Xiuyun. [newsphoto/file]

Among the juvenile delinquents arrested since the early 1990s, 96.8 percent were held in jails on charges of robbery, murder, sexual assault and personal abuse, according to a court source.

Family, school and society form the environment where the minors live and the reason why youngsters tend to do illegal things is because there is something wrong with at least one of the three elements, said Shang Xiuyun, senior judge at the People' s Court of Haidian District in western Beijing.

Shang, a veteran expert on juvenile delinquency, has recently completed a questionnaire survey of 100 jailed youngsters. The outcome indicates that 36 percent of the surveyed have an inharmonious family and 23 percent have family members who have been detained, jailed or held in labor camps. The survey also shows school kids account for 56 percent.

"The family and school education are rather incompetent when it comes to preventing teenagers from breaching the law", acknowledged Shang.

Another reason Shang believes is the newspapers and multimedia publications that are tainted by much pornography and violence, as she cites 61 percent of the youngsters in her survey had access to pornography and 75 percent regularly read publications with violent content.

In addition, 66 percent often passed time at electronic game services and 39 percent frequently went to Internet cafes.

The society produces too much toxic materials that "have seriously affected youngsters' minds and there is still no efficient remedy for that," said Shang.

Ling Qing, advisor of the China Institute on Research of Juvenile Delinquency, sees the problem at a larger stage. The Chinese society, which is now undergoing a transitional period toward the fully-established market economy, is bound to have chaos or out-of-order situations in some areas, which will probably affect the sensitive and naive young people, says the seasoned expert.

If they cannot receive guidance in time toward the right direction, they are very much apt to choose the wrong road and pay a heavy price for that, Ling said.

Ling calls for convenient Internet access and healthy, attractive content for teenagers and suggests the rating system on movies and TV series be applied in the nation as soon as possible.

In the late 1970s, China adopted the family control policy that required a couple to have only one child, and as a result, most of the teenagers nowadays are from single-kid families.

The number of single-kid offenders was on the rise in the past decade, noted Li Kangxi, an official with a reformatory of youngsters in Shandong province, east China.

The single-child youngsters tend to be self-centered, fragile, uncooperative and these characteristics often make them more easily to go to extremes, Li acknowledged. The official heads a research project on young offenders from single-kid families in the province and has delivered a report to the authority.

More substantial efforts are required to help the kids to become tolerant, optimistic and able to handle ups and downs in their life, Li said in his report.

Youth problems have also drawn growing attention from the top Chinese leadership. The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee held a meeting on this issue in May in Beijing and President Hu Jintao underscored that "it is the obligation of the country and the Party as well to create a sound environment and conditions for the maturing of the youngsters".

Actions have started toward that direction in numerous fields, even though it still takes time to see effect.

More elementary and secondary schools try to apply an evaluation system that stays focused on students' comprehensive performance rather than examination scores.

The justice departments also probe into some new methods to reasonably alleviate penalties for the young wrongdoers so as to help them correct themselves and resume a normal life.
One of the common operations is to suspend verdicts and permit the youngsters to continue their study or work in a certain period of time and the final rule will be based on their performance during that time.

The method, first initiated in Nanjing, east Jiangsu province in 1993, is now operational in most of the 3,000 juvenile courts in China.

"Facts have proven that it can achieve the best result," said Prof. Pi Yijun, director with the juvenile delinquency research center of the China University of Political Science and Law. 

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