Detention age for juveniles cut

2017-02-20 08:36:45Global Times Li Yan ECNS App Download

Draft rules may impact development of offenders: experts

China is considering to lower the minimum age at which juveniles can be put in administrative detention from 16 to 14, triggering debates among netizens and experts after media started online survey on the issue on Friday, with some worried it would hurt the future development of the young offenders.

The Ministry of Public Security released a draft revision of the Public Security Administration Punishments Law to solicit public opinion on January 16 in which it has revised the age for administrative detention of juveniles who have violated the law for the first time to 14 years old.

The ministry said that the revision aims to "deal with newly emerged situations and problems, better maintain social order, safeguard public security and protect the interests of individuals and organizations."

This is the first time for the authorities to adjust the age from 16 to 14.

An online poll conducted by the Sichuan-based Chengdu Business Daily showed that more than 60 percent of the 5,500 respondents support heavier punishment to juvenile violators and suggest the reduction of the age at which they can take criminal responsibility, while 4 percent said that authorities should be more prudent on the issue.

The draft has triggered heated discussion on social media as a Web page on Sina Weibo with the hashtag "decrease in the age of detention to 14" has been viewed more than 7.6 million times.

According to China's Criminal Law, juveniles under 14 would not take criminal responsibility and "any person who has reached the age of 14 but not the age of 18 and who commits a crime shall be given a lighter or mitigated punishment."

Effectiveness in doubt

This view of the netizens was not shared by some of the legal experts who said merely lowering the threshold of administrative detention would not help with educating young violators.

If the draft is passed, people who have reached 14 but not 16 would face a maximum detention of 20 days, Yao Jianlong, professor of juvenile crime studies at the Shanghai-based East China University of Political Science and Law, was quoted by the China Women's News on Friday as saying.

Yao, who disagrees with the change, said the revision is a response to the public's rage on ineffectiveness of measures on managing juvenile delinquency in China recently.

A series of school bullying cases involving underage students were exposed in 2016 which caused a stir and rage among the public.

Statistics from the Supreme People's Procuratorate showed that a total of 1,114 people involved in 1,881 cases of school violence and bullying have been arrested from January to November in 2016 and middle school students account for a higher percentage among underage suspects of school bullying.

"School bullying belongs to the category of misconduct and not crime and it is improper to apply the punishment for adult criminals to young offenders," Zong Chunshan, director of the Beijing Youth Legal and Psychological Consultation Service Center, told the Global Times.

A 2010 national report released by the China Institute of Juvenile Crime Prevention concluded that the majority of juvenile offenses involve violent crime and organized crime. The major motive is a desire for money and the major influence is peer pressure. It also pointed out that the majority of offenders act on impulse. According to the report, robbery is the most common crime that most juveniles commit, which accounts for 60 percent. Theft accounts for 20 percent.

These figures were confirmed by the Shanghai Juvenile Reformatory where more than 70 percent of inmates' crimes involve property violations.

Zong said that considering that China has no specialized area to detain young offenders, things would become worse if underage violators stay with adult criminals during their detention.

Better education

"Handing detention to young offenders would temporarily prevent them from misconduct. But the effects will be limited and may impact their future growth considering they are at a crucial phase of brain, personality and psychological development," Song Yinghui, deputy director of the law school of Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times on Friday.

Song said that the causes of juvenile delinquency are related to family education and the society, and effective measures to decrease juvenile delinquency should cover the family, school and society.

"Schools should offer more education on individual security and laws and enhance psychological intervention for early offenders. Family members, especially the guardians, should also take their responsibilities and send young offenders to specialized schools in a timely manner," said Song.


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