Drink-driving on the mainland will become a criminal offence whether or not it leads to an accident, with violators facing fines and imprisonment, according to a draft issued by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress yesterday. Legal practitioners hailed the change, to be made in the eighth revision of the Criminal Code, but thought more could be done. Currently drink-driving is a criminal offence only if it involves an accident - in which case the maximum jail term is seven years except in hit-and-runs. Otherwise drink-driving is an administrative offence that warrants up to 15 days of administrative detention. There have been calls to make the offence criminally punishable because of the increasing number of deaths it causes. One of the cases that may have forced the change in the law was that of Sun Weiming of Chengdu, Sichuan province, who killed four people and injured one on December 14, 2008, when he hit five vehicles. He was drunk and had no driving licence. Other incidents have stirred public discontent because they involved public servants or rich people being handed light sentences. A 20-year-old man from a rich family was street-racing with his friends in downtown Hangzhou in May last year when he killed a university student who was crossing the road. He received a three-year jail term. This month in Juancheng county, Shandong province, an official of the county Human Resources Bureau hit 11 people, injuring three seriously, including two pregnant women who lost their babies. He continued driving and stopped only when an electric bicycle was lodged under one of his tyres. Witnesses said he smelled of strong alcohol after getting out of his car. The county government did not reveal details about the accident. Sichuan-based lawyer and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate Shi Jie said the new charge was a step in the right direction, but it was regrettable that the revision covered only drink-driving and street-racing, but not other types of dangerous driving or irresponsible acts. Furthermore, the charge does not address what would happen in the event of injury or death, leaving the question of whether the old laws are still applicable in such cases. Shi defended Sun in the high-profile case. Sun was sentenced to life under the awkward charge of 'endangering public safety with intent'. 'This is not an appropriate charge for drink-driving since it requires the defendant to have wanted to kill or injure someone deliberately,' Shi said. 'However, since the public is so angry at Sun, and punishment under the current 'traffic accident' charge is too light, the court was stuck in an embarrassing position.' The lawyer added: 'China has a big drinking culture. There's an old saying that 'a banquet is not a banquet without wine'. At the same time, when our current law went into effect, there were a lot fewer people driving.' He advocated setting up a new 'dangerous driving' offence to cover drink-driving, reckless speeding, driving without a licence and other similar dangerous acts.