Top court seeks tougher penalties for sex offences by teachers and officials
Judiciary stirred to action following series of shocking assaults of children by teachers
Amid a public outcry over a spate of rapes of children by teachers, the nation's top court is for the first time seeking tougher punishment for public servants who abuse minors in their care.
A detailed guideline issued yesterday by the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice listed seven circumstances in which sexual abuse of minors warranted "severe punishment".
The guidelines in particular call for harsher but unspecified punishment for sexual offences against vulnerable groups such as the "stay-behind" children of migrant workers, and minors under 12.
Other offences attracting harsher sentences include those involving violence and coercion, or that lead to injury, pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases.
The guidelines also call for suspended sentences to be avoided where possible and that the privacy of victims be better protected during investigations and court cases.
The move comes after a series of abuse cases of young girls by teachers and officials attracted what observers felt were lenient sentences.
The latest involved a Yunnan official, Guo Yuchi, who was found guilty of raping a four-year-old girl but was last week jailed for five years.
In June in Hainan, Chen Zaipeng, a school principal and Feng Xiaosong, a government official, were convicted of raping six girls aged 11 to 14, and sentenced to 11.5 years and 13.5 years respectively.
While rape of a minor carries the death penalty, offenders often find themselves facing the lesser charge of soliciting under age girls for prostitution.
Wang Yu, a Beijing lawyer, was pleased that the court guidelines had brought to attention the vulnerability of stay-behind children, but said they lacked detail.
"A 'guideline' is not a law, or a judicial interpretation," Wang said. "It's unclear from reading this just how severely offenders will be punished, and it will be at the discretion of judges to decide when the guidelines conflict with existing laws.
She added: "This is more of a gesture to ease public outrage than a serious solution to the problem."