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    Uptick in Crime Against Minors in China Amid Rising Internet Use

    While authorities have intensified efforts to bolster judicial protections for minors, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate emphasized that evolving criminal activity online poses new challenges for legal authorities.

    China prosecuted 243,000 individuals for crimes against minors between 2020 and 2023, with annual prosecutions rising at an average rate of 5.4% during that period.

    This was among the data released by China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate Friday, with Deputy Procurator-General Gong Ming stating that authorities were increasing their focus on strengthening judicial protections and safeguarding the well-being of minors.

    Xian Jie, head of the top procuratorate’s Ninth Procuratorial Office, also emphasized the growing influence of the internet on minors: More than 97% of minors have internet access, with over 91% using mobile devices to connect. Xian underscored that while the internet offers convenience, it also poses significant risks to minors, including the danger of becoming victims of sexual abuse.

    In response to rising concerns over internet-facilitated crimes against minors, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, in collaboration with the Supreme People’s Court, issued a directive last May aiming to clamp down on such offenses. It calls for stringent penalties for those exploiting the internet to commit sexual crimes against minors, including coercing or manipulating them into obscene acts online.

    In 2023, prosecutorial organs also offered judicial assistance to nearly 20,000 minors, distributing 190 million yuan ($26.4 million) in relief funds. And in partnership with public security agencies and women’s federations, more than 2,000 inquiry and assistance centers were established to provide services, including physical exams, psychological counseling, evidence collection, and legal aid.

    Despite these efforts, juvenile delinquency also saw a marked increase, with approximately 97,000 juvenile crimes processed in 2023. Around 10,000 of these crimes were attributed to minors under the age of 16, with the majority of these offenses categorized as theft, rape, robbery, affray, and causing disturbances.

    To mitigate the impact on young offenders, authorities exercised leniency towards minor, first-time, and occasional offenders. This led to around 27,000 minors being approved for arrest and 39,000 prosecuted in 2023, while 38,000 were not arrested and 40,000 not prosecuted.

    According to Xian, from the Ninth Procuratorial Office, authorities have also discovered that methods for committing crimes against minors online are “complex and diverse” and are “continually evolving.” Exposure to violence, vulgarity, and other harmful content can result in minors adopting unhealthy values and potentially engaging in criminal behavior.

    “Currently, supervising and regulating cyberspace remains difficult and complex. There’s still a long way to go in terms of protecting minors online,” said Xian.

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: VCG)