Delegates of China’s top legislative body are set to review several draft laws this week including a hotly discussed provision to lower the age of criminal responsibility, following a spate of violent acts perpetrated by children.
As the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress convenes Tuesday for a five-day session, delegates will evaluate and vote on amendments to national laws that could shape the country’s values moving forward.
Here’s a look at some of the most important topics on the table this week.
Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility
The NPC Standing Committee is considering lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 “in certain circumstances and through special procedures,” in response to public backlash over several recent cases involving underage offenders. Under China’s criminal law, the minimum age of criminal responsibility is currently 14.
The new draft law stipulates that minors aged 12 to 14 who are found guilty of intentional homicide or intentional injury resulting in death shall bear criminal responsibility, provided the Supreme People’s Procuratorate — the country’s top prosecutor — approves.
Last year, 30 delegates had submitted a joint proposal to the National People’s Congress recommending that the age of criminal responsibility be lowered to 12 in order to hold such individuals accountable for their actions.
Minors have been involved in several serious incidents in recent years, from murder to sexual assault, though few have faced criminal charges. Last October, a 13-year-old boy in the northeastern city of Dalian was sent to a rehabilitation facility after confessing to fatally stabbing a 10-year-old girl. Similarly, in June, four boys who had sexually assaulted a teenage girl in the northwestern Shaanxi province were sent to a school for juvenile delinquents.
Criminal charges for identity theft
Individuals who fraudulently use other people’s identities to gain access to higher education, the civil service, or other employment may face fines and up to three years in prison, according to the NPC’s latest draft legislation.
Meanwhile, anyone instigating the perpetrators of such crimes — such as scheming parents or partners — can face even heavier punishments, though the draft law doesn’t mention specific penalties.
The provision was proposed following more instances of people claiming their identities and college entrance exam scores had been used by others to get into university — sometimes even under the ill-gotten identity. In the eastern Shandong province, where identity theft is especially common, 242 such cases were reported between 1999 and 2006.
Raising the age of consent for “special groups”
The draft provision calls for the age of sexual consent to be raised from 14 to 16 when cases involve “special groups” of individuals, including guardians, foster parents, and caretakers, as well as people in the education and medical sectors. Currently, stepparents, high school teachers, and doctors can legally have sex with children as young as 14 if both parties says it’s consensual.
Under the new draft provision, however, individuals in these roles who are found guilty of having sex with girls aged 14 to 16 could face up to 10 years in prison, regardless of whether the minor appears to give consent. Notably, the provision would not extend similar protections to boys.
Calls to raise the age of consent come in the wake of a high-profile case in April involving a businessman whose teenage “foster daughter” accused him of raping her over three years. Though the man, Bao Yuming, did not face criminal charges due to “insufficient evidence,” the disturbing case triggered wide discussion on the age of consent and the protection to minors.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: BBTree/People Visual)