Prosecutors test ways to stop child abuse

Updated 2017-12-29 10:30:18 China Daily

Courts nationwide prosecuted 77 kindergarten employees on charges of child abuse between January and November, with another 69 arrested and awaiting trial, the top prosecuting authority said on Thursday.

While the numbers are not large, an expert has said they show that authorities are paying greater attention to child protection, including against sexual predators.

Shi Weizhong, deputy director of juvenile prosecution for the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said local authorities are testing several methods to stop convicted sex offenders from working with minors, such as at preschools.

"Some local procuratorates have made commendable attempts and achieved good results," he said at a news conference on Thursday.

He cited two examples: Shanghai, which has a database of sex offenders that allows employers to run background checks on potential hires; and Shandong province, which has a platform for police officers to alert specialist prosecutors of potential child abuse cases early, to make investigations faster and more efficient.

The SPP sees local procuratorates as "laboratories for prosecuting crimes against juveniles", Shi said, adding that other regions will be encouraged to replicate successful practices.

A series of high-profile scandals have thrown a spotlight onto child protection, drawing more attention from the public and authorities.

The SPP issued a circular on abuse at kindergartens on Dec 1, which resulted in prosecutors stepping up assistance for police in investigations as well as educating the managers of preschools on how to keep their students safe.

"People used to regard physical punishment as a way for teachers to discipline their students, but the number of arrests and prosecutions this year show both the public and prosecutors are realizing it is a problem," said Song Yinghui, a law professor at Beijing Normal University.

On Nov 13, Shanghai police detained a suspect surnamed Zheng who ran a day care center where staff members were filmed hitting toddlers. Three employees were also detained.

Around the same time, Beijing police detained teachers over alleged child abuse at a kindergarten operated by Golden Cradle Education. The company has more than 700 kindergartens and schools nationwide.

The Beijing Education Commission conducted a citywide safety inspection of kindergartens last month, with the results listed in a database. Those with potential risks or problems were told to make immediate improvements.

Zheng Xinjian, director of juvenile prosecution for the SPP, said in addition to the work by local procuratorates, legislators should also look to strengthen the laws on child protection.

"Though existing laws have clauses to protect children, they are scattered in different laws and it's not systematic. That causes problems," he said.

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