Widespread moral problems facing China's 367 million minors under 18, including growing crimes involving juveniles, has become a focal point for Chinese society and political leaders.
A national survey showed about 20 percent of middle and primary school kids suffer such problems as coddling, unruliness, mentally frailty, lack of resolve and difficulty in getting on with others, and such serious problems as playing truant, excessive drinking, pregnancy among teenage girls, and suicides.
Juvenile delinquency has remained a thorny issue in China and figures provided by the Supreme People's Procuratorate show that minor suspects made up 9.1 percent of all suspects arrested nationwide in 2003.
This was a rise from the 6.7 percent reported in 2000, said Sun Qian, a deputy procurator-general, at a recent meeting on the prevention of juvenile delinquency and betterment of public security work around schools.
"Most young offenders are involved in thefts, robberies, kidnapping, blackmailing and drug addiction and trafficking -- many cases involve use of violence and some even involve rape and murder," said Bai Jingfu, vice minister of public security.
Nearly 70,000 minors were arrested by law enforcement departments last year on charges of various offenses, up 12.7 percent year-on-year.
The country's education system and negative social environment have been blamed as two of the major factors for those problems.
As grades are often a crucial yardstick in judging a student's performance and overall quality at Chinese schools, those with poor grades tend to feel they are inferior and isolated.
Guan Ying, a researcher with the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences who was involved in a national study tracking about 2,000juvenile delinquents, said poor grades and other unpleasant experiences at school are for many minor offenders a starting point on the road toward delinquency.
She said 74.2 percent of them had quit primary or junior high school before they became involved in various crimes. Nearly 93 percent of juvenile delinquents in cities used to play truant when they were at school.
Easy access to adult-only public entertainment venues in residential areas, including ballrooms and karaoke bars and gaming rooms, has been blamed as a major social factor for juvenile delinquency as they undermined the moral well-being of many youngsters.
Operators of those facilities tend to ignore laws and regulations that bar minors from access to karaoke bars, cyber cafes and violent or obscene videos and publications.
Guan Jie, vice-headmaster of the prestigious No. 11 Middle School in the western part of Beijing, said the owner of a tobacco and liquor shop near the school sells tobacco to their students, not to mention a sex shop nearby whose items can be seen by passers-by, including students.
Guan said vendors selling pirated pornographic video disks often appear before the entrance to their school of 5,000 students despite the school's appeal to law enforcement departments to crack down on those vendors.
Schools, families and the whole society should join hands in educating minors, said Guan.
The problems have attracted attention from Chinese leadership. In March this year, the Chinese government made public a package of proposals on raising the ideological and moral standards of the country's 367 million young people under 18, including more publicity campaigns, educational reform and investment in projects for young people.
As part of the proposals, China will launch publicity campaigns to teach primary and middle school students to value life, say no to drugs, advocate sciences and civilization, and oppose superstition.
It promises efforts to correct and help those minors with a poor record of conduct, and vows to reform curricula, textbooks and teaching methods in a bid to ease the academic burden of primary and middle school kids, while stepping up efforts to improve ideological and moral construction of those students, their spirit of innovation and capacity to practice.
In another development, the Chinese Government has built 130 centers for homeless kids nationwide, providing them with basic necessities, medical services and education to protect their legitimate rights and interests and minimize juvenile delinquency within this special group of children.
Starting from this year, the Ministry of Civil Affairs will join hands with lawmakers to draft a special law to protect the country's 150,000 homeless children -- including 105,000 boys and 45,000 girls, mostly between 10 and 15.
Most of these children have had little schooling and are making a living as beggars or junkmen, said Li Liguo, vice minister of civil affairs.
(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2004)