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Province to keep certain juvenile records in secret

(China Daily)

15:13, August 25, 2011

Juvenile delinquents in a discipline center play games to celebrate their birthdays in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Aug 4. Sun Xinming / for China Daily

GUANGZHOU - Guangdong province plans to start keeping confidential the records of juvenile delinquents and school students who are between the ages of 18 and 25 and committed minor crimes .

The change is meant to be a boon to young people who have reformed their ways and returned to society. It should prevent their criminal records from impeding them from obtaining employment, going to school, getting married and joining the army, according to Zheng Hong, chief procurator with Guangdong High People's Procuratorate.

Foshan, a Pearl River delta city that lies 20 kilometers away from Guangzhou, has applied to be the first city in the southern province to introduce the new regulation.

"The new regulation will cover the whole province in coming years," Zheng said at a work conference in Guangzhou this past week.

Guangdong is expected to become the first region in the country to adopt such a regulation.

"We cannot ruin a young person's future because there is a record of him committing a minor crime," he said.

Zheng said society often discriminates against people who have criminal records, making it difficult for them to obtain jobs, spouses, further schooling and positions in the army.

Zheng encouraged schools and government departments to take effective measures to protect the privacy of students.

Yet, he stopped short of saying what sorts of crime the new regulation will apply to.

The number of criminal cases involving juvenile delinquents has increased in Guangdong in the past five years, Zheng said.

During the same period, courts throughout the province handed down sentences to more than 43,000 juvenile delinquents, who made up 11 percent of all criminals that were sentenced in Guangdong during the same period.

What's more, more than 10 percent of the juvenile delinquents sentenced in China in the five years leading up to 2011 were tried in the province.

Most of the offenders were prosecuted on charges of robbery, theft, assault, rape, fighting and causing public disturbances.

Many Guangzhou residents and observers from legal circles welcomed the new regulation.

Wang Hongchen, a Guangzhou white-collar worker, said the decision to eliminate the records of minor crimes committed by students will encourage juvenile delinquents to mend their ways.

"But that does not mean it will encourage students to commit crimes," she added.

Zhu Yongping, a Guangzhou lawyer, said juvenile delinquents' records should only be kept confidential if they have reformed.

He said other things can be done for young offenders.

"It's important for the government to establish organizations that can help and educate juvenile delinquents," Zhu said.

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