China's southern municipality Guangzhou plans to set up a juvenile court to exclusively hear minor offenders' cases and safeguard juvenile's rights and interests.
Unlike the 2,400 juvenile courtrooms set up at nationwide courts, the court will be an independent judicial body designed to handle crimes committed by offenders under 18 years old.
The Intermediate People's Court of Guangzhou is heavily involved in the preparatory work of the juvenile court, which is set to open upon approval of the National People's Congress, China's top lawmaking body.
The Supreme People's Court proposed in September 2003 to set upjuvenile courts in order to protect the rights and interests of minor offenders. The first four courts are expected to open on a trial basis in the cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing and Harbin.
Eastern China's Shanghai municipality opened the country's first juvenile courtroom in 1984 to differentiate minors from adult offenders. Today, more than 7,200 judges are hearing juvenile delinquency cases across the country.
The rate of juvenile delinquency has been on the rise worldwide for the past few years, and China is no exception. Statistics show that 10 percent of the country's penal offenders are juveniles.
Rehabilitating, rather than punishing, has always been China's core principle in dealing with juvenile crimes.
In 2003, Shanghai and Beijing launched a community service program for teenage offenders convicted of misdemeanors to work incommunities, instead of serving a jail term.
(Xinhua News Agency January 28, 2004)