Judicial System

Age of liability for crime acts may fall to 12

Updated: Oct 14, 2020 China Daily Print
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The age of criminal responsibility in China is expected to be lowered to 12 in some special situations in accordance with a draft amendment to the Criminal Law in a move to better respond to serious violent offenses by younger people.

The draft says children aged 12 to 14 should be held criminally liable if charges of intentional homicide or intentional injury causing deaths, or a crime committed by cruel means, are approved by the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

The draft amendment was submitted for an ongoing bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the country's top legislature, for a second review on Tuesday. In general, a draft will become a law after being read at least three times.

The age of criminal responsibility is currently 16, with people aged between 14 and 16 only facing criminal liability if they commit serious violent offenses, including intentional homicide, rape or robbery. Those under the age of 14 who commit crimes are exempted from criminal punishment under the current law.

"The age-related revision in the draft amendment is due to the prominent problem of serious violent offenses committed by very young people that shocked the nation and aroused public concern," Zhou Guangquan, a member of the NPC's Constitution and Law Committee, said when introducing the draft to lawmakers.

Along with lowering the age in certain situations and improving rehabilitation for juvenile offenders, the draft also strengthens protection of minors by revising punishment for some crimes, according to Zhou.

"For example, it stipulates that people with special responsibilities, such as those guarding, adopting, looking after, educating or giving medical care to juveniles will be held criminally liable if they have sex with girls aged from 14 to 16, irrespective of whether it's consensual," he said.

Meanwhile, people raping girls under the age of 10 or seriously harming girls will face a sentence of more than 10 years in prison, or could even face life imprisonment or the death penalty in line with the draft.

While those raping young girls are expected to be harshly penalized, the draft said people sexually assaulting children will also be given heavier punishment.

After the draft amendment was first posted online in June, legislators began soliciting public opinion and later traveled to the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Zhejiang province to conduct research to improve the law.

Additionally, the draft has also seen changes or improvements in light of some behavior that has seriously harmed people's interests or the national reputation, including identity theft or improper use of stimulants in sports competitions.

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