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Legal Reform Likely As Juvenile Delinquency Rises

Judges and legal scholars are calling for an independent juvenile justice system in reaction to a sharp increase in offences committed by people under the age of 18.


According to figures released at a seminar in Beijing Friday, the number of convicted offenders in the first seven months of this year was 23 percent higher than the same period last year. The annual rate of increase from 2000 to 2004 was, on average, 14 percent.


Rape, robbery, theft, assault and fighting were the most frequently committed offences by young offenders since 2002.


"An independent juvenile justice system should be established in China," Wang Haining, a judge from the Xining Intermediate People's Court in northwest China's Qinghai Province, said at the seminar.


More than 3,400 juvenile tribunals have been established across the country since 1984, when a district court in Shanghai established the first one.


Stipulations in the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedural Law offer lighter punishments to juveniles and some special rights to minors in criminal cases.


"However, I believe there should be a special juvenile criminal law, juvenile criminal procedural law, and juvenile court," Wang said.


His opinion was echoed by Wang Mu, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) and president of the China Criminology Academy.


An independent juvenile justice system does not criminally punish juveniles and aims to protect their legal rights as they undergo correction, Wang Mu said.


"The core of a juvenile justice system is that minors are not given adult punishments," he said. "It means that we must not use criminal punishment prescribed for most of the juvenile crimes that are defined by current laws."


Experiments in establishing juvenile courts have been tried in major cities like Shanghai, Nanjing and Harbin.


In the absence of a juvenile court system in China, juvenile tribunals have stepped up their efforts to help delinquent children and protect their rights.


(China Daily September 17, 2005)


Juvenile Justice System to Improve
Juvenile Delinquency on the Rise
Conference on Juvenile Crime Held in Shanghai
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