China amends juvenile criminal law, offenders aged 12-14 years to face criminal punishment
China has amended its juvenile criminal law, which will take effect on March 1, thus bringing offenders as young as 12 under criminal punishment.
The amendment was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body, which stipulates that children as young as 12 to 14 will now be held criminally liable for intentional homicide or intentional injury that leads to death or severe disability through “extremely cruel means”.
Under the amendment, the age of criminal responsibility will remain unchanged at 16. However, juveniles aged 14 to 16 will also face criminal punishment if they commit crimes such as intentional homicide, intentional injury, rape or aggravated robbery. These cases will be reviewed by the Supreme People’s Court on a case-by-case basis and such prosecutions will have to be approved by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
The move to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility in special circumstances has shocked the nation and triggered widespread concern.
According to Guo Linmao, an official from the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, practice of holding young offenders criminally liable should still be used prudently because criminal punishment has always been applied sparingly in such cases. And leaving young offenders behind bars without effective rehabilitation is not a sensible option.
“Targeted corrective education and the age revision will play bigger roles in dealing with juvenile crimes, especially those committed by offenders at the younger end of the age scale. The principle of education coming first and punishment second must always be upheld when handling juvenile cases, because getting young offenders back on the right track is the ultimate goal,” he said.