Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Leftist Dissent Under Xi: The Young Leftists Part II, Leftist Students Join in Labor Activism: Jasic and Beyond

In Leftist Dissent Under Xi: The Young Leftists Part I, Who Are the Young Leftists?, Dui Hua  outlined the rise of a new generation of Chinese leftists and their swift repression by Xi Jinping's Communist Party.
Timeline of the Jasic protests in Shenzhen. Image Credit: The Dui Hua Foundation

Double Solidarity Marks the Jasic Protests: Young Leftists in Support of Workers

Unlike many other labor protests across China, the protests at Jasic Technology in Shenzhen in the summer of 2018 were unusual because of the role leftist students played. These students made an unprecedented move to intervene in a labor rights dispute by venturing into public space side by side with workers.

In April 2018, welding machinery workers at Jasic Technology attempted to form an independent trade union. The nation’s sole legally-mandated All-China Federation of Trade Unions had been tasked with securing better wages, abolishing punitive fines, and improving working conditions. The Federation failed to achieve these goals, prompting the workers to take action. Several workers were dismissed because of their effort to unionize.

The conflict escalated at the end of July, when over 20 workers and one student were arrested for protesting abusive treatment by police. From July 28 to early August, Shen Mengyu (沈梦雨), Yue Xin (岳昕), and sympathizers from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Nanjing University, and Sun Yat-sen University formed the Jasic Workers Solidarity Support Group. In solidarity with the workers, they began posting articles, open letters, photos, videos of speeches and peaceful demonstrations in front of the Jasic factory on digital media. They raised funds for workers, formed human chains, held banners, and chanted slogans alongside dozens of workers from Jasic and nearby factories.

The student-worker coalition demanded the unconditional release of all detained workers and the punishment of police and mob members accused of beating workers. The Jasic protesters also requested the reinstatement of all previously dismissed workers. In less than a month, this student-worker coalition would be no more.

On August 10, 2018, members of the Jasic Workers Solidarity Support Group submitted an open letter calling for the Shenzhen Pingshan District Procuratorate to investigate the police’s unlawful detention of workers in Shenzhen. The members (from left to right) were Zheng Yongming (郑永明), Shen Mengyu (沈梦雨), Xu Zhongliang (徐忠良), and Yue Xin (岳昕). Image Credit: @yuexinmutian, via Twitter

Triple Solidarity: Old Leftists in Support of Leftist Students and Jasic Workers

While young Marxists garnered widespread attention for bearing the subsequent brunt of government suppression, “old leftists” also took part in the Jasic protests in a display of solidarity with their young counterparts and the Jasic workers. The South China Morning Post reported that over half of the approximately 80 Jasic supporters who joined the rally on August 6 outside of Yanziling police station in Shenzhen’s Pingshan District were Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members and retired cadres. Many of them held portraits of Chairman Mao as they protested and were active members of Utopia, China’s leading Maoist internet forum.

Other older leftists who were too weak to take to the streets contributed articles for leftist forums or websites. On July 28, as soon as he learned that workers were being detained, Wu Jingtang (吴敬堂) called on all “comrades” to support the Jasic workers in the name of Chairman Mao. Up until his death in early 2019 at the age of 82, Wu was revered for leading thousands of workers to protest the sale of Tonghua Iron and Steel Group in 2009, which they feared would threaten their jobs, and then successfully pressuring several corrupt officials to step down.

After the Jasic protests were crushed in late August, another veteran leftist activist Gu Zhenghua (古正华) wrote in defense of the young Marxists. He openly countered the state media’s accusation that the Jasic protesters were “manipulated by overseas forces.” Gu, who called himself a devoted follower of Chairman Mao and previously worked for the Chinese press, was 90 years old when he penned the article in September 2018.

During the month-long protest, Jasic student activists deliberately eschewed politics. In online posts, they pledged to espouse Marxism or even Maoism by standing with both the CCP and the working class against “local vicious forces.” On August 19, 2018, Yue posted an open letter to Xi, stressing that her activism aligned with Xi’s “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” Yue attested to the unswerving loyalty of other solidary group members: they were neither plotting a revolution nor pressing for political reforms. They focused solely on helping Jasic workers safeguard their well-deserved labor rights. Jasic supporters young and old wore T-shirts with the slogan “Unity Is Strength,” a patriotic song about the People’s Liberation Army.

Shen Mengyu, wearing a t-shirt that reads “Unity is Strength,” above left, was taken away by unidentified men on August 11, 2018. Yue Xin and other members of the Jasic Workers’ Solidarity Support Group, above right, protested her disappearance on August 13. Image Credit: @wangshi77 and @yuexinmutian, via Twitter

But the tactic of using Marxist or patriotic rhetoric to get the CCP on their side failed. On August 24, anti-riot police raided the students’ apartments in Huizhou and detained approximately 50 people, including Shen Mengyu, Yue Xin, Zheng Yongming (郑永明), and Gu Jiayue (顾佳悦). Most were charged with “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” The New York Times reported that the activists held hands and sang “L’Internationale” as the police broke through the door.

In response to the police raid on the same day, state-run Xinhua News blamed non-governmental organizations and foreign forces for fanning the Jasic protests. These reports made no mention of the workers’ grievances or their rationale for protesting. Xinhua’s allegation was based on the fact that Fu Changguo (付常国) was an employee of Shenzhen-based Dagongzhe Migrant Workers Center, a local non-governmental organization said to have been “fully funded by an overseas NGO.” Fu is one of more than 50 protesters detained, disappeared, or placed under residential surveillance for participating in the Jasic labor movement.

Aftermath of the Jasic Crackdown

A year after the Jasic crackdown, almost 40 students, workers, and other Jasic supporters with records in Dui Hua’s political database remain in custody or have disappeared and their status remains unclear. In January 2019, about five months after their last public appearance, Shen, Yue, Zheng, and Gu briefly resurfaced in a 30-minute confessional video aired by state security officers to former members of the Jasic Workers’ Solidarity Support Group. In the video, all four pled guilty and admitted to being brainwashed. Shen was reported to have been incited by a “radical organization” to engage in subversive actions to overthrow the CCP.

Observers believe their confessions were staged and scripted because Gu and Shen looked “dull and unresponsive” in the video, a quality observed among rights campaigners, celebrities, and even foreign nationals who have been forced to make confessions on TV since 2014. In many cases, these confessions are made before formal legal proceedings against the confessors have begun. In this sense, the use of public shaming violates the presumption of innocence, and these confessions seem to function more as a show of power rather than any substantial indictment of guilt.

Campus activism has also been quashed. Universities warn students not to participate in protests. Despite its reputation as a wellspring for democracy movements, Peking University ousted leaders of the Marxism Society who were sympathetic to the Jasic workers and replaced them with “loyalists” from the CCP or Communist Youth League in September 2018. In addition to warning students off activism, the university branded the Jasic Workers’ Solidarity Support Group’s activities as “criminal,” in a November 2018 message to all students.

The New Light People’s Development Association at Renmin University, too, is having a hard time recruiting members because migrant workers were pressured by the university and their contractors to leave the organization. Many students also quit after being summoned by university teachers. In November 2018, Nanjing University students were forbidden to register a Marxism reading group in reprisal for writing public letters and delivering speeches supporting the Jasic Workers’ Solidarity Support Group. VOA reported that on November 1 two Nanjing University students were beaten by university guards and thugs on campus while delivering a speech in which they announced their intention to form a Marxist reading association independent of the philosophy department. Their stated aim was to “study the original work of Marxism” and “pay more attention to workers and peasants.” The students were dragged away to an administrative building and later escorted to a police vehicle.

In September 2018, leftist students from various universities and Jasic workers commemorated the 42nd death anniversary of Mao Zedong in his birth province Hunan. Image Credit: Jasic Workers’ Solidarity Support Group’s GitHub

While China continues to sing the praises of Chairman Mao’s legacy, leftist students attempting to commemorate Mao’s 125th birthday in December 2018 were singled out for punishment. At least two Marxist students were taken by police for attempting to attend events related to Mao’s birthday. According to the Jasic Workers Solidarity Group’s Twitter account, Qiu Zhanxuan (邱占萱), who presided over the Peking University Marxism Study Society, was forcibly taken near the university gate by plainclothes police while on his way to attend a memorial he had organized for Mao’s birthday. In a video posted in early 2019, Qiu alleged that he had been strip-searched, slapped, and forced to listen to Xi’s speeches at high volume during an interrogation session in February 2019. Zhan Zhenzhen’s (展振振) whereabouts remain unknown after he was taken away on January 2, 2019 for joining a similar ceremony in Hunan, Mao’s native province.

Several leftists not known to have travelled to Shenzhen to join the Jasic protests have also faced suppression. Leftist scholar Chai Xiaoming (柴晓明) was put under residential surveillance at a designated location for “subversion” in Nanjing on March 21, 2019. Chai was a lecturer at the School of Marxism of Peking University and a part-time editor at the Maoist website Red Reference. One day before he was detained, Chai was involved in the publication of an article by distinguished mainland scholar Jin Canrong (金灿荣), a professor at Renmin University. Jin had called on China to take a different path to modernization.

In August 2018, police from Guangdong raided the Beijing office of Red Reference, confiscating computers and books. Editor Shang Kai (尚恺), a supporter of the Jasic protests, was detained on criminal charges of picking quarrels and provoking troubles. Information concerning Chai, Shang, and the police raid remains sparse.

A year before Xi came to power in 2012, He Bing, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, called Bo Xilai’s promotion of “red culture” in Chongqing absurd. “In this absurd time, they encourage you to sing revolutionary songs, but they do not encourage you to wage a revolution.” Almost eight years on, the criticism about the now-disgraced Bo still rings true.

The love for Mao and Marx as a part of modern Chinese patriotism does not translate into love for Xi or his ruling CCP. The “old leftists,” comprised of mostly state-owned enterprise workers and veteran protestors, find themselves increasingly alienated as today’s socialism directly contradicts the system they remember under Mao. Young Marxists also have reasons to feel aggrieved: the motherland they have been taught to love is falling short of their romanticized version of Marxism due to pervasive labor problems and a broad range of other socioeconomic issues. The Chinese government not only ignores these issues, it represses any attempt to raise them in the public sphere. In Xi’s China, even calling attention to existing problems either propagated or tolerated by the infrastructure, no matter how local or apolitical, is an offense to be met by everything from legal obfuscation to intimidation to detainment and being disappeared.

From pro-democracy activists to rights lawyers and religious leaders, the CCP has crushed scores of activists who promote any of the seven political “perils” that Xi warned against in his infamous Document No.9. The reliance on the ideas of Marx, Lenin, or Mao to pave the way for Xi’s “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” has made clear the ideological contradictions between the CCP of yesterday and today, which will continue to impact the Party.

Socialism with Chinese characteristics increasingly looks like an unembarrassed capitalist oligarchy, with “Chinese characteristics” as a catchall term to justify the demand for total fealty. Leftist supporters, both young and old, who do not toe Xi’s line face similar or worse fates than those who try to spread democratic ideals such as a multi-party system and judicial independence: the ideology they espouse may be more threatening to the Chinese government than those ideals which can be dismissed as “coming from the West.”

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Leftist Dissent Under Xi: The Young Leftists Part I, Who Are the Young Leftists?

Xi Jinping leads members of Politburo Standing Committee and other state leaders in celebrating the 200th birthday of Karl Marx in the Great Hall of People on May 5, 2018. Image Credit: Xinhuanet

In May 2018, Xi Jinping led a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birthday. During the event, Xi delivered a speech hailing Marx as the greatest thinker of modern times and holding up Marxism as the guiding ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The days before and after Xi’s speech were marked by numerous celebratory events, including the placement of a golden Marx statue in Xi’s hometown.

Just months later, the CCP would engage in a crackdown on leftist supporters who not only shared the same ideological bedrock as the CCP but were actively working to apply Marxism at the local level. The tactics used by the party may not surprise those familiar with the CCP’s handling of any dissent regardless of political ideology. However, the stark contrast between the tone struck by Xi in May and the party’s blatant rejection of those same ideals when carried out by its citizenry served as another reminder of the CCP’s intolerance for dissent, even that which seeks to bring local standards in line with the government’s stated values.

This is the first entry in a two-part post that examines dissent among the ideological left in China. In October 2019, Dui Hua examined the grievances of the “old leftists,” including their efforts to form political parties. Dui Hua has also chronicled leftist subversion in China from 1980-2013. This post turns to a young generation of Marxists who emerged more recently and quickly faced repression in Xi’s China. The second part of this post, which will be released shortly, discusses the young leftists’ roles in the 2018 Jasic workers’ protests, as well as the consequences they faced after the government crackdown.

The emergence of young leftist dissent, which culminated in the outbreak of workers’ protests at Jasic, a welding company, in the summer of 2018, represents an unlikely challenge for the CCP. Xi is continuing China’s decades-long effort to instill the political ideology of the CCP as the rightful successor to Marxism in the education curriculum. He also widely celebrates his own thoughts on socialism by adding “Chinese characteristics” to Marxism. To ensure loyalty and broaden the appeal of his Sinicized version of Marxism for future generations, Xi’s government launched a mobile app in early 2019 to educate school-aged children about the CCP’s ideological orthodoxy.

Despite escalating political indoctrination among China’s youth, a group of self-declared Marxist students came to prominence under Xi’s rule. Most of them were born in the 1990s and early 2000s with no first-hand experience of Mao’s revolutionary zeal for class struggle. Growing up amid China’s economic boom, these young leftists find that the Marxist ideals trumpeted by the CCP in school do not line up with the realities of the society in which they are living. Rather, they see aggravated ideological contradictions in Xi’s “new era,” including increasing state capitalism and social injustice, especially corruption and a widening wealth gap. At the core of their disillusionment are rampant labor rights abuses, including wages in arrears, long work hours, and unlawful layoffs.

Old leftists have joined these young dissenters and harnessed social activism when their interests conflict with government policies. Having grown up in Mao’s China without the benefit of formal Marxist education, their activism is rooted in what they perceive as the tainting of Mao’s ideals by corruption and capitalist tendencies. In contrast, many young leftists are well educated and motivated by the pursuit of social justice derived from Marxist values of equality. These young leftists come from diverse backgrounds, but they began their activism at universities with the formation of various Marxism-Leninism or Mao Zedong Thought discussion groups. In an unprecedented move, this activism would expand beyond the campus as students took their cause into society to support the Jasic workers. 


Diverse Backgrounds


The young Marxists who emerged in Xi’s era were students or graduates from various disciplines and social backgrounds. Many of them attended China’s most prestigious universities. One student Marxist from Peking University who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said that he read the works of Marx to find ways to help China’s underclass. As the son of migrant farm workers, he believes that he has a sense of social responsibility. 

Other activists, like several members of a Marxism study group formed at Guangdong University of Technology in 2017, were born to less well-off families. For instance, chemical engineering student Ye Jianke(叶建科) grew up in Heping, the poorest county in Guangdong. Zheng Yongming (郑永明), a graduate of Nanjing Agricultural University, is a native of Ganzhou, a state-designated poverty city in Jiangxi. Sun Tingting(孙婷婷), a Chinese medicine graduate from Nanjing University, similarly grew up in a poor family in Jiangsu. In November 2017, the study group members took part in a group session and were detained for “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” Afterwards, Sun released a public letter in which she described the difficulty of paying her legal fees. 

If the well-to-do backgrounds of some students made for unlikely Marxists, it did not deter the students’ convictions. For instance, Shen Mengyu (沈梦雨), whose parents are university lecturers, became a student leader who openly supported the Jasic protesters. Shen graduated with a master’s degree in computer science and mathematics from Sun Yat-sen University. Despite a family background and educational qualifications pointing to a bright future, Shen chose to work in a car factory in Guangzhou after graduation to experience life as a proletarian. In an interview with Asia Weekly (paywall), Shen said she did not consider herself a Marxist until she attended graduate school and learned about labor issues by attending talks and following leftist websites online.

Another notable figure, Yue Xin (岳昕), was born to a typical middle-class family. Her family has an apartment in Beijing, and she had a materially trouble-free life. In a now-censored essay about social injustice and inequality published online, Yue expressed guilt for her privileged upbringing, something not afforded to many ordinary Chinese people. Yue became interested in workers’ rights in 2016 when she visited Jakarta as part of a language exchange from Peking University. Prior to her trip, she believed in constitutional democracy. Seeing that the Indonesian political system failed to improve the lives of Indonesian workers who continued to suffer capitalist exploitation, she began to follow labor issues in China more closely upon her return to China in 2017. These views led her to join various campus activities to promote workers’ rights.


Leftist Campus Activism


University students did not appear particularly vocal about labor issues, even after a spate of suicides at Foxconn starting in 2010 and other labor protests that rocked the manufacturing hub of Guangdong. Although many students likely experienced mistreatment while working to support themselves, there were no known collective student efforts to improve workers’ conditions until around 2014.

That year, over 200 sanitation workers in Guangzhou University Town launched a two-week strike to seek severance pay and assurances that the new employer assuming the regional cleaning contract would continue to employ the workers. The striking workers received help from many of the area’s 200,000 students. These students signed an open letter supporting the strike, raised funds, and even brought food and water for the workers. Nevertheless, except for Shen Mengyu, who conducted on-site research about the strike, few students identified as Marxists.

These efforts led to improvements in working conditions, including safer and more hygienic workplaces as well as better-defined work hours and duties. This success also sparked an interest among leftist student groups to improve the treatment of “campus proletarians” like cooks, construction workers, and janitors. In November 2018, Inkstone, a subsidiary of the South China Morning Post, wrote of several Marxist student groups in Jiangsu and Beijing. At Nanjing University, students from Marxist labor rights groups sympathetic to campus workers took up canteen work and organized square dance events. The New Light People’s Development Association at Renmin University supported migrant workers by organizing free clinics, night schools, and dance parties. Only months later, these groups would be suppressed by government action.

Perhaps the best-known student group is the Peking University Marxism Study Society, which was founded in 2000. In late 2015, the society released a report detailing inadequate labor protections for the university’s maintenance staff, including unlawful pay cuts, insufficient social security coverage, and abhorrent living conditions. The report, based on responses from 100 interviewees on campus, urged the university management to act to improve working conditions in accordance with Chinese law.

A follow-up survey conducted in 2017 by Zhan Zhenzhen(展振振) indicated that the university had made no substantive improvements to staff conditions. Perhaps recognizing the risk in making overt criticism, Zhan’s May 2018 report avoided naming and shaming, instead calling on university management to ensure the protection of basic workers’ rights. Although Zhan did not face any disciplinary action for his survey, Peking University warned workers not to cooperate with him lest they be laid off.

While only a small minority of students are devoted to left-wing campus activism, the CCP fears a student-worker coalition that highlights labor rights and broader socio-economic inequalities. The CCP believes such criticisms undermine its vested interests in the increasingly capitalist markets. When the party believes a line has been crossed, it has not hesitated to crack down on leftist student groups, using a variety of methods including coercive measures. Zhang Yunfan (张云帆) was among the first students to have his leftist activism met with such resistance.

A former member of the Peking University Marxism Study Society, Zhang started working in Guangzhou University Town after graduating from Peking University with a major in philosophy in 2016. In 2017, Zhang organized Marxism reading groups at Guangdong University of Technology for like-minded students and graduates. Three of the activists mentioned in this article—Sun Tingting, Ye Jianke, and Zheng Yongmin—were members. In addition to labor rights, Zhang’s reading groups were keen to discuss current affairs, even “June Fourth.”

After a group session on November 15, 2017, Zhang, Ye, and a few other members were initially charged with “illegal business activity” but later detained for “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” A month later, Zhang and Ye were placed under residential surveillance at a designated location and released on December 29, 2017. Sun and Zheng were also detained in early December and released on bail within a month.

While the Marxist students shared similar passions to improve workers’ rights, some of them expanded their focus to explore women’s rights. Marxist student Yue Xin emerged as a critical voice in China’s #MeToo movement, which began in January 2018. She helped trigger a public reckoning when she began investigating an alleged rape that occurred almost 20 years ago and possibly led to the suicide of a Peking University student in 1998. In April 2018, Yue and other students requested that police disclose information about the investigation of a former literature professor who is believed to have raped the student who committed suicide and coerced other students into sexual relationships. In an open letter Yue published on April 23, 2018, she recounted intimidation by Peking University. The university said that she would not be able to matriculate unless she deleted all related information from her electronic devices.

Many politically engaged students, including those profiled here, reached an important level of commitment with their involvement in the Jasic labor protests of summer 2018. The next post tells their story.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Sharp Drop in Number of Juveniles Convicted by Chinese Courts


Image Credit: Pixabay 

Records of People’s Courts Historical Judicial Statistics: 1949-2016 (Renmin fayuan sifa tongji lishi dianji 人民法院司法统计历史典籍) were published by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) at the end of 2018 and contain extensive information on the convictions of juveniles, including girls, by Chinese courts. Statistics are available for trials from 2002 to 2016, a period of 15 years.

Table 1 shows the number of juveniles convicted, with a breakdown by gender. It reveals that the number of juveniles tried and convicted from 2008 to 2016 dropped by more than 60 percent. However, while the number of girls convicted by courts decreased until the end of 2016, the number of girls convicted as a percentage of juvenile convictions has increased.


Table 1. Total Juvenile Convictions, by Gender
Year
All Juveniles Convicted (ages 14-18)
All Girls Convicted
Girls as Percentage of the Year's Total Convictions
All Boys Convicted
Boys as Percentage of the Year's Total Convictions
2002
50,048
1,438
2.87%
48,610
97.13%
2003
58,870
1,792
3.04%
57,078
96.96%
2004
70,086
1,994
2.85%
68,092
97.15%
2005
82,692
2,188
2.65%
80,504
97.35%
2006
83,697
1,957
2.34%
81,740
97.66%
2007
87,506
2,007
2.29%
85,499
97.71%
2008
88,891
2,047
2.30%
86,844
97.70%
2009
77,604
2,075
2.67%
75,529
97.33%
2010
68,193
2,078
3.05%
66,115
96.95%
2011
67,280
2,146
3.19%
65,134
96.81%
2012
63,782
2,077
3.26%
61,705
96.74%
2013
55,817
2,001
3.58%
53,816
96.42%
2014
50,415
1,847
3.66%
48,568
96.34%
2015
43,839
1,777
4.05%
42,062
95.95%
2016
35,743
1,570
4.39%
34,173
95.61%

Source: Records of People’s Courts Historical Judicial Statistics: (1949-2016), 2018.


Tables 2 and 3 present the types of crimes committed by all juveniles and girls, respectively, since 2002. There has been a troubling rise in the number of cases of drug crimes committed by girls in recent years.


Table 2. Top Juvenile Crimes
Year
Violent
Nonviolent
Robbery
Aggravated assault
Rape
Brawls
Murder
Theft
"Picking Quarrels and Provoking Trouble"
Drugs*
2002
21,846
4,712
2,569
680
564
13,963
1,495
373
2003
25,626
5,814
2,959
602
644
16,872
1,647
400
2004
29,207
6,818
2,810
971
641
20,929
2,202
617
2005
35,288
8,095
2,845
1,315
678
23,961
2,631
874
2006
34,259
8,918
2,549
1,741
760
23,763
3,581
749
2007
34,217
9,285
2,667
2,318
672
25,397
3,818
916
2008
34,326
9,822
2,631
2,507
524
25,916
4,100
1,210
2009
29,884
9,278
2,593
2,661
550
20,812
4,005
1,268
2010
24,292
9,015
2,581
3,182
463
17,244
3,730
1,368
2011
21,714
9,825
2,585
3,727
558
17,316
3,865
1,543
2012
18,558
8,892
2,598
3,371
598
18,259
3,969
1,567
2013
16,464
7,891
2,310
3,364
470
14,713
3,358
1,748
2014
14,858
7,492
2,224
2,912
337
11,966
3,571
1,745
2015
13,164
6,142
1,936
3,106
317
8,997
3,323
1,595
2016
12,416
4,152
1,497
2,600
199
5,910
3,001
1,223

* Drug related crimes: smuggling, trafficking, transporting, and manufacturing drugs

Source: Records of People’s Courts Historical Judicial Statistics: (1949-2016), 2018.


Table 3. Top Crimes Committed by Girls
Year
Violent
Nonviolent
Robbery
Aggravated Assault
Rape
Brawls
Murder
Theft
"Picking Quarrels and Provoking Trouble"
Drugs
Fraud
Extortion
2002
442
74
24
5
38
524
33
54
52
16
2003
524
99
34
3
34
738
15
87
79
15
2004
554
130
34
11
40
840
19
89
79
23
2005
636
115
36
13
26
850
49
112
114
30
2006
527
104
31
22
38
749
36
103
57
44
2007
534
157
46
21
29
709
43
107
72
31
2008
467
138
59
24
24
729
50
122
77
33
2009
456
158
58
38
29
641
71
124
85
45
2010
387
162
65
74
18
670
48
163
57
44
2011
347
186
56
73
35
650
67
204
73
20
2012
290
152
41
63
29
748
69
218
59
27
2013
199
164
53
52
23
651
82
213
96
22
2014
174
163
30
63
26
527
74
230
79
34
2015
145
126
45
58
21
427
52
232
92
19
2016
147
100
29
66
20
381
74
189
100
14

Source: Records of People’s Courts Historical Judicial Statistics: (1949-2016), 2018.


Political crimes – endangering state security and organizing or using a cult to undermine implementation of the law – are rare. Twenty juveniles, almost certainly Tibetans or Uyghurs, were convicted of splittism and inciting splittism during 2010-2015. Eighty juveniles were convicted of organizing or using a cult to undermine implementation of the law during the same period; these are thought to be predominantly Falun Gong practitioners.

A recent article published by Beijing News suggests there was a sharp increase in the percentage of girls convicted of crimes in 2017. According to the article, girls convicted as a percentage of juveniles rose to 6.56 percent for years 2016-2017. The SPC statistics volumes only cover trials through the end of 2016. However, China Law Yearbook 2018 provides a number for juveniles convicted in 2017: 32,778. Using this number and the 2016 number of 35,743 in the SPC volumes, we calculate that the number of girls convicted in 2017 was 2,925, the highest number since at least 2002. Expressed as a percentage of all juveniles convicted by courts, girls doubled from 4.39 percent in 2016 to 8.92 percent in 2017.

It should be noted that the statistics in the SPC volumes only cover juveniles convicted by courts. Juveniles can be held in various other carceral facilities without being tried by a court. Such alternatives include compulsory drug rehabilitation (qiangzhi jiedu 强制戒毒) centers, custody and education (shourong jiayu 收容教育) camps (for sex workers, including juveniles), “legal education” (fazhi jiaoyu 法制教育) campuses for “seriously poisoned Falun Gong practitioners,” “custody and rehabilitation” (shourong jiaoyang 收容教养) facilities for juveniles under the age of 16 who commit mostly minor offenses, and “work-study schools” (gongduxuexiao 工读学校) for juveniles who “engage in serious misbehavior.” There were 1,335 juveniles in “custody and rehabilitation” facilities in 2005, the latest year for which numbers are available. In 2013, there were 10,735 juveniles in 67 “work-study schools,” of whom 18 percent were girls.

Juvenile Justice Reforms

China stressed reform of the juvenile justice system in the 2002-2007 five-year judicial reform plan. During this period, emphasis was on infrastructure – specifically the creation of juvenile courts and the recruitment and training of judges for juvenile cases. During the 2008-2012 plan period, the emphasis was on process – how to best deal with juvenile crime. This period culminated in the passing of the amended Criminal Law in 2011 and the amended Criminal Procedure Law in 2012. The former recommended giving juveniles suspended sentences for minor crimes. The latter introduced a number of important reforms including “diversion” (sifa fenliu 司法分流 or fenliu chuzhi 分流处置), sometimes referred to as “postponed prosecution,” (futiaojian buqisu 附条件不起诉), sealing of juvenile records, and use of behavioral and psychological assessments at every stage of adjudication.

In addition to implementing and assessing pilot projects in the provinces, the SPC also sent teams abroad to study foreign juvenile justice systems. From 2008 to 2017, Dui Hua joined with the SPC’s Office of Juvenile Courts to hold five in-depth exchanges with judges and other judicial officials and scholars – two in the United States and three in China.

Topics covered by these exchanges included reforms that made their way into the amended CPL. Dui Hua believes that the adoption of “postponed prosecution” – a process whereby an offender can apologize and pay compensation to victims as well as undertake other steps that demonstrate “genuine repentance and a willingness to reform” – is the main reason why trials and convictions of juveniles dropped more than 60 percent since 2008.

The Road Ahead

In the autumn of 2019, the National People’s Congress (NPC) released the draft of a proposed Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency for public comment. The draft focuses on prevention rather than punitive measures, stressing education, mental health, reduction of bullying, and a focus on multi-institutional collaboration to reduce juvenile delinquency. It renames “custody and rehabilitation” centers as “specialized schools.”

A notable omission of the draft law is that it does not propose gender-specific measures. It is increasingly accepted that gender-specific needs require different approaches. This shortcoming may be addressed during the public comment phase of consideration.

Whether or not the age of criminal responsibility should be lowered from the current standard of 14 years old is a hotly debated topic in China. The draft does not mention this controversial proposal, but it is likely to emerge as a point of contention during the public comment phase.