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China Daily Global / 2020-10 / 21 / Page004

More minors under 16 committing crimes

By ZHANG YANGFEI | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-10-21 00:00

The number of offenders younger than 16 has been rising in China in recent years, a Supreme People's Procuratorate official said in an interview published on its website on Monday night.

Data on the handling of juvenile crime cases showed offenders had become younger over the past two years, said Dong Guiwen, director of the top prosecuting organ's case management office, adding that the issue deserved "more attention".

The Supreme People's Procuratorate released data about major cases handled by prosecutors around China in the first three quarters of this year on Monday.

Among prosecuted juvenile crime cases, the proportion of crimes committed by minors under the age of 16 has continued to rise, from 8.9 percent in 2018 to 9.6 percent last year and 11.7 percent from January to September this year, he said, adding that it had been 11.2 percent in the first two quarters of this year and 12.6 percent in the third.

Offenders under 16 years of age but older than 14 bear criminal responsibility for the serious crimes of robbery and rape, and they accounted for more than 70 percent of crimes committed by such minors. Those under the age of 14 who commit crimes are exempted from criminal punishment under the current law.

Supreme People's Procuratorate data showed Chinese prosecutors approved 16,990 arrests of juvenile criminal suspects from January to September, a decrease of 32.4 percent year-on-year. The non-arrest rate was 36.6 percent, a year-on-year increase of 2.9 percentage points, and the non-prosecution rate was 32 percent, up 8.2 percentage points.

Dong said the top prosecuting organ has attached greater importance to juvenile delinquency in recent years. Together with the Ministry of Education, it has carried out activities on campuses across the country to educate teenagers on the rule of law and prevent minors from committing crimes.

Prosecutors have also adhered to the principle of "arresting less and prosecuting with more caution "when it comes to juvenile cases and have granted more leniency except for serious crimes or crimes committed by cruel means, he added.

China's juvenile justice system has always been a widely discussed topic, and rising juvenile violence in recent years has prompted a heated public debate on the age of criminal liability, especially after a series of serious violent offenses that shocked the country and sparked public outcry.

Examples include the killing of a 10-year-old girl in October last year by a 13-year-old boy surnamed Cai from Dalian, Liaoning province, and a 12-year-old boy from Yuanjiang, Hunan province, who stabbed his mother to death in December 2018.The two offenders were both released by the police and exempted from punishment as they had not reached the age of criminal liability.

Despite the common belief that the juvenile justice system should focus on protecting and rehabilitating underage perpetrators, many people say very young offenders should receive punishment for serious criminal offenses.

Responding to those concerns, a new draft amendment to the Criminal Law proposing the lowering of the age of criminal liability to 12 was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for a second review on Oct 13.

The draft, which could become law after three reviews, also stipulates that minors aged 12 to 14 should be held criminally liable if charges of intentional homicide, intentional injury causing death or crimes committed by cruel means are approved by the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

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