Chinese authorities seek tougher sentences to make examples of child molesters
- Forcing children to take nudes of themselves and sending them on internet should be considered child molestation, say prosecutors
Child sex offenders can expect tougher punishment – even if they do not physically touch their victims – after two precedent-setting decisions in appeals lodged by China’s highest prosecutorial agency.
Zheng Xinjian, director of juvenile prosecutions at the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP), made the assessment after the SPP won tougher sentences for two offenders on appeal.
In a statement on the agency’s website, Zheng said sexual assaults, abuse and other crimes against minors had become far too common and threatened social harmony and stability.
“Appealing these cases is to show that crimes against minors will be severely punished and to strengthen guidance to lower level courts to crack down on such crimes,” he said.
In one of the cases, a 25-year-old man used instant messaging software to groom then coerce a 13-year-old girl into taking photos of herself naked. She sent him 10 images. Not satisfied, he demanded the teenager have sex with him in a hotel or he would publish the photos online, according to the SPP.
The girl reported the threats to police and the man was arrested and tried in July last year.
The court ruled that pressuring the girl into taking nudes did not constitute child molestation and the man’s plan to have sex with the girl did not happen because he was arrested.
The offender was sentenced to a year in jail for attempted child molestation. Prosecutors objected, saying the court was misdirected and the law wrongly applied, resulting in a lenient sentence.
The prosecutors appealed against the sentence and the man’s term was increased to two years.
“In such cases, criminals usually alleged they did not touch the victim’s body and did not commit any crime. We specifically made this an exemplary case to guide lower level procuratorates to apply the law correctly,” Zheng said.
“Child molestation is committed as long as the person gets children to take pictures of themselves naked, or of their private parts, by coercion, force or any other means to satisfy their sexual needs and seriously damage children’s dignity and mental health.”
Forcing children to take such photos and sending them on the internet should be considered children molestation, he said.
In another case, a 39-year-old man raped five primary schoolgirls and molested two others when he was a head teacher from 2011 to 2012.
He was sentenced to six years in jail for the rapes and 54 months for molestation after three trials in the Supreme People’s Court last year.
The SPP appealed against those sentences, arguing that the rape of children should be considered a severe offence and punished accordingly.
The defendant was jailed for life for the rapes and will serve 10 years for molestation.
The SPP also called on the Ministry of Education to create programmes to improve awareness of sex crimes, a move endorsed by Sun Xuemei, spokeswoman for Girls Protection Special Fund, a non-governmental organisation focusing on protecting children from sex crimes.
“We applaud the recommendation by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate to the Ministry of Education,” Sun said.
“We have been appealing for the education authorities to make sex abuse education part of school education. Many parents have no clue about such education, and we will hope authorities will act.”