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China has to get tougher on those who prey upon children

By Yu Jincui (Global Times)

08:29, June 20, 2012

Local security authorities in Longxi county, Northwest China's Gansu Province recently ordered the arrest of a primary school teacher. The teacher, Liu Junhong, allegedly sexually assaulted eight students aged 9 to 13 on several occasions since last September. This news came to light just a few days after Li Xingong, an official in Yongcheng, Henan Province, was accused of raping dozens of underage girls.

The public is shocked by these scandals. But if you conduct an online search with the keywords "rape" and "girls," one will find an increasing number of similar tragedies.

Reporters with the Legal Daily confirmed yesterday with two local courts in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, that the courts have accepted and heard six cases concerning sexual assaults on children under the age of 10 in the past six months. A survey jointly conducted by the Women's Federation and the People's Procuratorate of Guangdong Province in April showed that in the past three years, 2,506 teenage girls have been sexually abused in the province. Some scholars even hold that child sex abuse is probably more common than the statistics indicate.

It's devastating to learn that teachers and officials who are supposed to be models of morality are brazenly breaching the bottom line of morality and challenging the rule of law. Their crimes are fatal to the credibility of government agencies.

Sexually abusing children is a heinous crime in many countries. Countries such as the US and Japan have issued special laws to prevent this crime. The US Megan's Law demands that criminals convicted of such crimes publicize their details to inform the public. South Korea carried out chemical castration against a child abuser for the first time in May.

Though there was no agreement on the issue, most Chinese hold that the current punishments for sexually assaulting children is inadequate.

Sexual abuse of children is not an independent crime under China's criminal law, but is seen as aggravated rape. According to relevant laws, those who rape children, if the case is extremely serious, can be sentenced to 10 years or more in prison.

Preventing the sexual abuse of children requires the strengthening of protection of children from the parents, school and the children themselves, while calling for tougher punishments to deter criminals.

The lenient penalty for committing such crimes is considered one of the main reasons for the frequency of such acts. China could learn from other countries about ways to strengthen its crackdown on those who sexually abuse children.

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