Juvenile Protection and Delinquency Prevention Policies in China

By Wong, Dennis S. W. | Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, December 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

Juvenile Protection and Delinquency Prevention Policies in China


Wong, Dennis S. W., Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology


This paper describes the laws designed especially for the purposes of protecting juveniles and preventing delinquency in China. The Juvenile Protection Law 1991 and Preventing Juvenile Delinquency Law 1999 have defined the duties, responsibilities and authorities which by law parents or guardians of a juvenile have in relation to the welfare, right of education and juvenile justice. This paper discusses the changes of juvenile justice in relation to the enactment of the new laws. In particular, the author relates the new prevention law to the existing Chinese model of delinquency control and how the new law affects this model. It is found that with the promulgation of new prevention law, there is a shift from an informal to a more formal direction of delinquency control where there may be an increase of custodial outcomes for juvenile delinquents.

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There has been little international literature on China's juvenile justice and delinquency law reform. Hindered by the nation's tight control of information-sharing, China's scholars and government officials seldom join in or present papers at criminological conferences. Although there has been some updated literature which discusses juvenile justice and its new development in China at national or regional symposiums over the past 20 years, most of it is in Chinese and aims to describe or praise the laws rather than reviewing them objectively (Chang, 1992; Chen, 1989; Fei et al., 1987; Wang, 1991; Zhao, 1996). But with the greater openness in China's political economy and a more clearly stated intention to build links with its counterparts in the world, international scholars may be able to access useful information more easily. English written literature discussing legal and criminological matters in China has become more common in recent years (Clark, 1989; Curran & Cook, 1993; Jolley, 1994; Leng & Chiu, 1985; Macbean, 1995; Ogden, 1992; Rojek, 1989, 2001; Tanner, 1999; Troyer et al., 1989; Wong, 1999).

We have seen scholars discuss general crime control policies and the functions of social control agents in China (He, 1991; Jolley, 1994; Rojek, 1989, 2001; Tanner, 1999; Troyer et al. 1989). Other scholars have focused on juvenile justice and delinquency control measures (Biddulph, 1993; Curran & Cook, 1993; Kuan & Brosseau, 1992; Wong, 1999). From this literature, scholars generally found that in the period from the 1950s to the 1970s the Chinese communist leaders relied on the police and neighbourhood public security organs heavily and did not trust formal judicial systems (Edwards, 1977; Leng & Chiu, 1985; Ogden, 1992; Rojek, 1989). Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had adhered to the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism, and the police and the local security committees worked hand-in-hand to control residents' freedom and combat crime. Both these public security organs are generally seen as important instruments of the state that serve the ruling class by controlling or oppressing the class struggle. The public security organs dealt with most of the criminal cases, at all levels from detection to sentencing of offenders, according to the Central Committee's direction of the CCP in early 1960s. The public security system is directly overseen by the State Council's Ministry of Public Security (MPS). The MPS is designed not only to investigate criminal acts and arrest and interrogate criminal offenders, but also to maintain social order by exercising a wide range of preventive and administrative powers (Edwards, 1977; Tanner, 1999).

Until the 1979 reforms, the legal profession and court were still inactive. The public security system was in fact a strong controlling tool of the 'proletarian dictatorship' in the 1950s to the 1970s. The security committees (zhi an weiyuanhui) were the basic unit of informal control in every district. In less serious criminal cases, work or residential units, in formal consultation with the public security organs, conduct investigations, adjudicate and sanction. …

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