Protection of minors a priority

(China Daily Global) Updated : 2021-03-09

Work reports of top procuratorate, court highlight achievements

China's judicial departments have stepped up efforts to improve the system to offer all-around protections to minors, the annual work reports of China's top procuratorate and top court said.

Last year, procuratorates nationwide prosecuted more than 57,000 people for juvenile-related crimes including sexual assault, abuse and abducting and selling children, the work report of the Supreme People's Procuratorate said.

The top procuratorate and other departments have set up 1,029"one-stop" case-handling sites to deal with juvenile-related cases, especially sexual assaults. Investigators can complete interrogation, physical checkups, psychological counseling and evidence collection at one time at such sites to prevent "secondary injuries" to the victim.

Procuratorates filed prosecutions or urged courts to deprive guardians of guardianship in 513 cases last year for damaging juveniles' rights or failing to perform custodial duties. The number of cases was more than six times that in 2019, according to the report submitted to China's top legislature on March 8.

In October, amendments to the Law on the Protection of Minors that were approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress included mandatory reporting of offenses against minors and checks of school faculty and other staff members' criminal records before recruitment. The amendments to the law will come into effect on June 1, along with amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency.

In May, prosecutors in a county in Hunan province investigated two primary school teachers for rape and child molestation. Prosecutors found that the head and deputy head of the school had neither verified the case nor reported it to relevant authorities after receiving the parents' complaints.

Prosecutors initiated prosecution of the two principals for dereliction of duty in September. The head was later sentenced to 20 months in prison for dereliction of duty and accepting bribes, while the deputy head was sentenced to 10 months for dereliction of duty. The teachers' cases are ongoing.

Ma Qi, deputy head of the Supreme People's Procuratorate's general office, said the amended law clearly stipulates the responsibilities of families, schools, society, internet service providers, government departments and the judiciary in protecting minors.

In terms of judicial protection, procuratorates participate in handling cases, offer assistance to victims and their families, safeguard juveniles' interests and rights and deter minors from committing crimes, Ma said.

The top procuratorate's work report said minors found guilty of crimes should be punished according to the law, but educating and helping them transform themselves was even more important.

Last year, about 33,000 juveniles were prosecuted for participating in various crimes. Another 11,000 minors who were involved in minor crimes and showed repentance were conditionally exempted from prosecution.

Minors offered conditional nonprosecution are given a six-month test period, during which authorities monitor their performance and help them correct and repent for their mistakes. Last year, 290 minors failed to pass such tests and were prosecuted for their crimes.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate has also pushed forward with the setting up of specialized juvenile procuratorial teams to deal with criminal, civil, administrative and public interest litigation cases related to minors. Pilot projects were carried out in 13 provinces from 2018, and the new approach has been rolled out nationwide this year.

Chinese courts also made protecting children and preventing juvenile crimes a priority last year. Courts at all levels harshly punished those who harmed children, the Supreme People's Court said in its work report, also delivered to the top legislature on March 8, giving the case of Yang Guangyi as an example.

Yang, from the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, used cruel means to rape a 10-year-old girl who was on her way home after picking passion fruit to sell in Qinzhou, Guangxi, in 2018. The child died as a result.

Yang was sentenced to death by an intermediate people's court for rape in 2019, but the sentence was changed to a suspended death sentence last year after he appealed. Following an appeal by the girl's mother, and considering his violent behavior, the Guangxi High People's Court then withdrew that ruling after a retrial and again sentenced him to death.

Yang was executed last month after the top court approved the death penalty.

Courts in provinces including Anhui, Shandong, Hunan and Shaanxi also improved the establishment of juvenile tribunals to ensure minors can obtain priority protection in cases of domestic violence, the report said.

"Protecting children is to protect the future and hope of our country," Zhou Qiang, the president of the top court, said when delivering its report.

To promote the protection of minors, many judges visited schools last year to offer education about the law to students and provide more care to children, he added.

The top court set up an office tasked with guiding and improving the work of juvenile courts across the country on March 2.