New hotline part of push in city to protect minors

Hu Min
People can call 12345 to inquire about policies and regulations, alert authorities about infringements on the legal rights and interests of minors and help troubled children.
Hu Min

The city's first hotline offering protection to minors will begin trial operations Tuesday, local authorities said at a press conference today ahead of Children's Day. 

The 24-hour, government-run, public-service hotline will be accessible by dialing 12345, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau. 

"It will receive alerts, complaints and suggestions concerning the legal rights and interests of minors," said Zhu Qinhao, director of the bureau. 

People can call to inquire about policies and regulations, alert authorities about infringements on the legal rights and interests of minors, help minors in trouble and forward suggestions, Zhu said. 

Cases involving crimes will be transferred to judicial authorities. Lawyers, psychologists, social workers and volunteers will help improve the hotline, he added. 

A revision to the Law on the Protection of Minors was adopted by China's top legislature and will take effect on June 1.

The revised law, introduced in 1991 and revised in 2006, has significantly increased the number of articles from 72 to 130, adding two new chapters involving government and online protection for minors.

Shanghai has begun to amend its juvenile protection regulations to improve the protective legal system for minors, authorities said. 

A local standard on the evaluation of family guardianship for minors will soon be released. 

"The first of its kind in the nation, it provides a technical reference that is standard and operational for authorities," said Jiang Rui, deputy director of the bureau. 

A protection network involving families, schools, society, the Internet, government, and the judiciary has been formed in the city, Zhu said. 

The mechanism has been established to identify and prevent harmful incidents to minors, he said. 

Last year, all subdistricts and towns in the city are ordered to designate at least one children's counselor responsible for the care and protection of troubled and left-behind children.

Every neighborhood committee is required to have a children's director for the same purpose.

Social organizations have been encouraged to get involved in the protection of juveniles, said Zhu. 

A project supporting troubled children due to absent or improper guardianship assisted 273 juveniles last year and 326 so far this year. 

Training for social workers in the field will be beefed up this year to provide more professional help to minors. 

Welfare institutes and protection agencies at district levels will be established, providing emergency protection and guardianship for minors. 

The Shanghai Procuratorate said the city has designated 23 venues for questioning, physical examinations and psychological counseling.

"For the first time, the revised law includes provisions to prevent school bullying, and the city will establish a long-term mechanism via faculty training and incident handling to stem the phenomenon," said Ping Hui, an official with the Shanghai Education Commission. 

The Shanghai Communist Youth League distributed 9.34 million yuan (US$1.47 million) to 18,670 troubled minors since last year. 

New challenges and social problems related to the protection of minors have resulted from the expanding population and city life, such as academic burdens, lack of sleep and shortages of cultural and sports activities, said Zhu. 

"Moreover, multiple factors related to families and society have led to increased safety incidents for minors, and absent or improper guardianship happens from time to time," he said. "These concerns are being tackled with enhanced psychological crisis prevention for students, family education guidance and alleviation of academic burdens for primary- and middle-school students. The goal is for every child in the city to live a happy, healthy life.

According to experts, the existing law faces severe challenges due to the emergence of new social problems. For example, minors who are abused by their guardians, frequent school bullying that is overlooked, addiction to online games and sexual abuse by teachers, neighbors and relatives, China Global Television Network reported. 

As a response to these problems, the revised law has formulated and improved related protective measures, and clearly stipulated the responsibilities of parents, schools, society, government and the judiciary to safeguard the wellbeing of minors.

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