Shanghai builds comprehensive child protection and safety laws

Tian Shengjie
China has drafted a new law to further protect children from sexual assault and indecency. Alongside the document is an online platform to outline the law, and report cases.
Tian Shengjie

A document concerning rape, molestation and indecency targeting minors was released by the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate, and will be put into effect on Thursday.

It said that the judicial departments will pledge severe punishment for crimes such as online indecency, illegal detention and manipulation by drugs. The immature state of the minors' physical and mental condition must be considered during these cases.

To protect juveniles, the city's courts and procuratorates also issued many related measures, cases and data before Thursday's International Children's Day.

Last week, Changning District's court published a recent case about three girls who were sexually assaulted by a swimming instructor.

The court said the man was given a severe punishment. He was sentenced to five years and six months behind bars and was banned from working in the juvenile-related industry, such as teaching and taking care of children, within five years after being released.

The court signed a suggestion for the minors' protection at public swimming pools with the district's procuratorate, sports administration, market regulation administration and culture and tourism bureau.

It emphasized that all swimming places, which juveniles always visit, cannot have workers who committed a crime before such as violence and sexual assault.

"Just as it says, 'You can never do too much for children'," said Wang Fei, deputy director of Changning District's court.

Shanghai builds comprehensive child protection and safety laws

Meanwhile, the Baoshan District's court recently said that juveniles are often drawn into, and even hurt by their parents' divorce. To better protect their rights and feelings, in April, the court pioneered the establishment of a special enforcement team in China with four professionals.

"The breakdown of a marriage often accompanies arguments and even hatred, which hurts children," said Zhang Xiaoli, director of the court. "There is a saying that even an upright judge finds it hard to settle a family quarrel. So the team needs to identify patterns and continually learn from experience."

For example, after the parents divorce, one side wants to visit the child according to their divorce agreement and court decision, but may be rebuffed.

Some juveniles are on the other side, who have custody, and refuse to see their fathers or mothers. Such kind of thinking is also supported and even instigated by the caregivers and their grandparents.

"We can't force a child to enforce the agreements despite being court employees," said Wang Lihui, the team leader and judge of the court. "Protecting the rights and interests of minors is our principle and the only thing we can do is mediate."

"If the conflict cannot be fundamentally resolved, the cases with the same cause will be repeatedly dealt with according to the time of visitation in the agreement," she added.

The court cooperates with the district's procuratorate and women's federation to seek help from professionals with psychology certification for mediation. It has also commissioned social workers since March to invest, supervise the parents and make return visits in the long term.

The child maintenance issue is a major problem for juvenile-related cases, accounting for about 85 percent from 2020 to 2022. It's followed by visitation rights disputes (around 13 percent), the court said.

For those who refuse to pay the child-support, the court will deduct the money from their bank deposits, securities, salary, Alipay and so on. They will be on the dishonest civil debtor list and restricted from high consumption such as buying real estate and touring.

Shanghai builds comprehensive child protection and safety laws
Tian Shengjie / SHINE

A screenshot of an online inquiry platform about legal issues was recently opened by the Putuo District's procuratorate.

Furthermore, an online inquiry platform about legal issues for the schools, parents and students has been opened by the Putuo District's procuratorate on the Suishenban app, the city government's public service platform, and WeChat last week.

It was the first of its kind in Shanghai and has been launched for two years. The offline platform in schools has solved over 40 legal issues for 27 schools and answered hundreds of law-related questions, the authority said.

Since November, over 600 people from schools in Putuo's Taopu Town have registered on the platform on WeChat in a test run, and 156 consultations have been conducted.

"Schools, parents and students always need our help in various affairs, such as accidents occurring in physical education classes, skipping classes and topping up large sums of money for online games by minors," said procurator Xu Lichun.

"The online platform, like an online consultancy for legal issues, can make inquiry more convenient and increase the working efficiency of judicial staff."

Minor-related clues can also be reported on the platform, such as sexual assault and lack of family concerns and education.

Xu said the professionals, who are in charge of the platform, will check the information and questions every day and procurators will answer the questions, follow information and handle case as soon as possible.

"We are trying to nip the crime in the bud," she said.

Special Reports