Supreme People's Court releases guiding cases, issues opinions over juvenile protection, delinquency
Published: May 30, 2024 09:51 PM
A juvenile delinquent in custody is invited to a middle school in Tangshan, North China's Hebei Province, to tell his story with the aim of preventing juvenile crimes. Photo: VCG

A juvenile delinquent in custody is invited to a middle school in Tangshan, North China's Hebei Province, to tell his story with the aim of preventing juvenile crimes. Photo: VCG

Before this year's International Children's Day, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) of China on Thursday issued for the first time a set of guiding cases on judicial protection for minors. On the same day, the SPC also released opinions over protection for minors and crime prevention, stating that there will be zero tolerance for juvenile crime. 

Following a series of incidents involving harm to minors and juvenile crime that have sparked widespread concern, legal professionals believe that this is an important step toward improving the system, which will help strengthen protection for minors and effectively prevent juvenile crime.

The SPC released the 40th batch of guiding cases on Thursday, including a set of cases on the protection of minors for the first time. These cases address issues such as student bullying, the abuse of underage family members, the illegal sale of alcohol to minors, marital guardianship rights and visitation rights for grandparents. The cases provide a clear judicial stance on these highly concerning social issues and establish unified standards for similar cases, SPC said in its release.

One of the five cases that were released received a lot of attention. In this case, the defendant, a 14-year-old surnamed Jiang, was a grade 8 student at a high school in Jishou, Central China's Hunan Province. Bullied by 15 classmates in the school restroom, Jiang ended up stabbing three of them with a folding knife, causing serious injuries to two of them.

In the lawsuit, the Jishou People's Procuratorate accused Jiang of intentional injury, while the defendant and his defense counsel argued that Jiang's actions in defending himself against student bullying caused harm to the unlawful intruders, constituting legitimate defense and therefore not bearing criminal responsibility under the law. 

The court ruled that the defendant Jiang's actions constituted legitimate defense and declared Jiang not guilty.

Many netizens believe that this case represents progress in the judicial protection of minors. "I hope that the final verdict in the Handan incident, in which a 13-year-old boy was brutally bullied and murdered by his classmates, will also be what the people hope for," wrote a netizen on Sina Weibo.

The SPC has issued many judicial interpretations related to the protection of minors in the past, and the latest guiding cases further strengthened the protection of minors, Liu Changsong, a lawyer with Beijing Mugong Law Firm, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

It is showcased, especially in the case of Jiang, that the legitimate defense system in the country has been activated, encouraging minors to bravely defend themselves when facing illegal infringement, he said.

Liu noted that in recent years, China has achieved significant results in preventing juvenile delinquency. However, in civil and administrative matters, there is a noticeable increase in disputes over custody, guardianship and visitation caused by parents hiding or kidnapping their minor children, as well as cases of campus infringement and sports injuries involving minors, and administrative cases involving the survival and development rights of minors.

The SPC and local courts at all levels will continue to strengthen the trial and supervision of cases involving minors, pay more attention to the selection and publication of guiding cases and reference cases related to judicial protection of minors. They will also actively fulfill their duties to promote the integration of family, school, society, the internet, government and judicial protection to create a good legal and social environment for the healthy growth of minors, the SPC said on Thursday. 

On the same day, the SPC also issued the "Opinions on Comprehensive Strengthening of Judicial Protection of Minors and Crime Prevention."

The "Opinions" are divided into five parts with a total of 42 articles, focusing on overall requirements, strengthening the trial work of cases involving minors, promoting the substantive integration of criminal, civil, and administrative for cases involving minors, as well as strengthening organizational guarantees. The document provides clear guidance and requirements for addressing prominent issues in current juvenile justice protection and crime prevention work.

Recently, in addition to the SPC, multiple local judicial authorities have also released data on the protection of minors and juvenile delinquency, and proposed the focus of their next steps.

On Tuesday, the People's Procuratorate of Guangdong Province released a white paper on prosecution work for minors in Guangdong. The data show that the number of criminals who have committed crimes against minors has decreased, with the trend of rising sexual crimes being effectively curbed. In 2023, the procuratorial organs in Guangdong prosecuted 5,950 criminals who have committed crimes against minors, a decrease of 1.86 percent compared with the previous year.

On Wednesday, the Beijing High People's Court released a white paper on juvenile trials from 2019 to 2024, showing that the juvenile delinquency in Beijing has shown an overall fluctuating downward trend over the past few years, with the number of young defendants on trial dropping to 96 in 2023 from 229 in 2019. A total of 581 cases of first trial involving juvenile delinquency have concluded, while 1,551 cases of first trial with juveniles' rights and interests being infringed and 1,731 defendants being sentenced have concluded during the same period. More than 20 defendants who severely infringed upon the legitimate rights of minors were sentenced to life imprisonment or given a more severe punishment.

It also noted that in recent years, there has been a noticeable upward trend in cases involving cybercrimes.

On Thursday, the Global Times learned from the Beijing Internet Court, since June 2021, the court has ruled 597 cases involving minors, showing a significant increase. The frequency of cyberbullying is on the rise, posing challenges to combating online violence, the court said.