Shanghai deputies push for better legal protection for kids

The city's NPC delegates see an urgent need for better legal protection for children in the face of rising social problems such as the increasing divorce rate.

Shanghai deputies to the National People’s Congress are seeking better protection for children in the face of growing social problems such as the rising divorce rate.

Xu Juehui, deputy general manager of the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal and an NPC deputy, called for a better mechanism to protect children's rights in legal matters.

Some measures have already been launched in Shanghai courts.

"I visited the Putuo District People's Court earlier and learned of some cases of the infringement of minors' rights related to divorce disputes, such as the battle for guardianship ... and harm to both the physical and mental health of kids," said Xu.

Xu said the divorce rate is rising, particularly in big cities, and often involves children — about 96 percent of cases between 2014 and 2016 according to data from the Supreme People's Court.

But children often cannot stand up for their own rights because they do not have independent legal status before the courts.

And the parents and guardians often have a conflict of interest with the children over property and assets.

“It’s easy for the children to be the bargaining chips for one side to gain more profit from the divorce,” Xu said.

For example, the parent who wins guardianship may obstruct visiting rights in order to win a greater share of the family assets.

But giving children independent representation will protect their rights in court.

Xu said this should also cover children abandoned or abused by their parents or who suffer physical or mental illness.

Another NPC deputy, Zhu Zhisong, Party secretary of Minhang District, also called for a national database of sexual offenders, modeled on one already operating in Minhang.

Last year, Minhang implemented rules banning offenders from working with minors.

“The district procuratorate, court, police, education authority and some other departments dealing with children have set up a database of sexual offenders and update it monthly,” said Zhu.

"But the database is still very small and only effective within the district."