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.