China considers lowering criminal liability age to 12
Chinese lawmakers are mulling over lowering the minimum age at which a minor can be convicted to 12, in individual cases under specific circumstances.
The proposal was made in a draft amendment to the Criminal Law, which was submitted Tuesday to the ongoing session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.
If a juvenile who has reached the age of 12, but is under 14, commits intentional homicide or inflicts an injury that leads to death under flagrant circumstances, he or she shall bear criminal responsibility upon attestation and approval of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, according to the draft.
Currently, minors under the age of 14 do not bear any criminal responsibility in China. However, some high-profile cases involving violent crimes committed by underage youths in recent years have sparked a heated debate on the minimum age of criminal liability.
Besides, statistics from the country's top procuratorate raised concerns over juvenile crimes. China saw a rebound in juvenile delinquency in recent years, according to a white paper issued by the SPP.
From 2014 to 2017, the number of juvenile arrests examined by procuratorial agencies dropped from 56,276 to 42,413, later increasing by 5.87 percent and 7.51 percent in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The number of juvenile prosecutions increased 5.12 percent year on year in 2019.
The most common juvenile crimes prosecuted were theft, robbery, intentional assault, affray, creating disturbances and rape, accounting for about 82.28 percent of the total, the white paper showed.
The draft amendment also adds provisions aimed at strengthening the protection of minors to prevent them from sexual abuse.
It stipulates that guardians and those who adopt underage females aged between 14 and 16 shall be investigated for engaging in criminal sexual activity, regardless of whether the minors agree or not. Others targeted include those who have special duties of giving medical treatment to and educating the juveniles.
In cases with flagrant circumstances, the penalty can be imprisonment of not more than 10 years.