First Place — Tangled Roots: Migration and Juvenile Crime in China

This piece appeared in the 2017 Acheson Prize Issue of the Yale Review for International Studies.

Why truly meaningful Juvenile Justice reform in China requires solving the migrant dilemma and reforming the Hukou system


The juvenile justice system of the People’s Republic of China (PRC or simply “China”) is situated within the complex political, economic, and social fabric of the contemporary Chinese State. Over the last century, China has been rocked by numerous revolutions, famines, political uprisings, and episodes of social unrest. At every turn, children have been caught between their families, the state, and society at large, as each placed unique duties, responsibilities, and restrictions upon them. The story of juvenile justice in China, then, is as much a story of the social and political motivations of a nation as it is a story of the children themselves. With over 200,000[1] juveniles standing trial and possibly millions more having other interactions with the legal system each year, demystifying China’s juvenile justice system is critical to understanding how China’s government addresses complex and interrelated social problems.

In this paper, I examine the juvenile justice system within its social and political context. After giving a broad overview of the history of juvenile justice in China to provide a backdrop for contemporary social norms, I review the development the current system in more depth.  I then examine the phenomenon of juvenile crime and explore its connection to the phenomenon the phenomenon of urban-rural migration. I then move to recent statutory changes, especially the 2012 revision of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), and examine China’s uncharacteristic statutory compliance with international law in the area of juvenile justice. I argue that this compliance exists primarily because it is expedient for the government to display a juvenile justice system whose formal structure is impressive to direct attention away from the root cause of juvenile crime: semi-urbanization and the associated rural-urban divide. I will go on to show how the state of juvenile justice and the migrant problem are direct manifestations of China’s state interests, and how the reforms that would meaningfully resolve these problems are very unlikely to occur in the near future. The paper will conclude with some suggestions for both international and domestic policy action that may help spur real change, and provide some directions for future research in the area.

Historical Overview of Juvenile Justice in China

The current system of juvenile justice in China has existed for a scant 31 years if we think of it as beginning when the first juvenile tribunal was established in Shanghai in November 1984. But the history of Chinese thought on juvenile justice is many times longer. In particular, examining the Confucian and other sociocultural underpinnings of this thought alongside its history is critically important because these ideologies continue to have deep impact on the dynamics of Chinese society and the way the juvenile justice system functions within it.[2]

While references to juvenile punishment can be found in even the ancient writings of Legalist and Confucian scholars, the first systematic treatment of the juvenile as a distinct legal category that deserved additional protections appeared in the Tang Dynasty.[3] For nearly all of the history of Imperial China, Confucian legal norms and broad judicial discretion guided by traditional philosophies (Confucianism foremost among these, especially in the later dynastic years) governed the adjudication of children and youths.[4] Mediation, which has been the preferred form of dispute resolution in China since the 7th century B.C.E., was used for most cases, while lawsuits were reserved mostly for those cases in which mediation failed to lead to an acceptable outcome.[5] Because Confucian philosophy emphasizes virtue (dé), harmony (hé), and propriety (lǐ) over the use of coercive law (fǎ) in governance, both community-based and court-led mediation have been widely utilized throughout the history of Chinese Civilization. Because mediation techniques serve the purpose of moral education in addition to dispute resolution, they were and continue to be especially preferred for children.[6]

While criminal sanctions in the imperial period generally came in the form of corporal and capital punishment or penal servitude, punishments for children and other groups with reduced culpability or high status were often commuted to a restitutive fine in the unusual case that mediation could not resolve the problem.[7] The Tang code’s generous stipulations that any sentence lighter than exile could be replaced by financial penalties for anyone below the age of 15, and that serious sentences for children younger than 10 required direct review by the emperor were mostly preserved throughout the dynastic history of China.[8] Compared to the kingdoms of Europe, sentencing regimes were progressive, since the imperial penal codes generally prohibited the harshest punishments for the young and old, with severity of sentencing adjusted appropriately for degree of age.[9]*

The judicial enshrinement of reduced capacity for children closely aligned with Confucian thought. Perhaps the most important Confucian text for children, the Three Character Chant (Sānzìjīng), begins with the couplet, “人之初,性本善” (“People are naturally good at birth”).[10] Strict statutory regulations on the nature, timing, and administration of punishments usually meant that children received lighter sentences, although the strong philosophical conviction that punishments should fit crimes (zuìyǒuyīngdé) rather than the criminals who committed them tempered these factors to the extent that they sometimes failed to recognize children’s decreased criminal capacity as a reason for mercy. Ultimately, the strongest mitigating factor for most of China’s history was the practical constraints on the criminal justice apparatus: for example, in 1812, the ratio of judges to citizens was over 1:330,000, which meant that amnesties were common, especially for children.[11] The state took no pride in administering punishments; philosophically, these leniencies stemmed from the Confucian idea that the mere occurrence of crime, especially on the part of supposedly morally pure children, was a sign that the state had failed to govern well.[12] According to Confucian theory, a morally just society would self-correct deviant or criminal behavior through social relationship networks.[13]

These Confucian ideals did not always mean light punishments for children. For example, even in the late Qing, parents were treated with extreme deference for harsh punishments administered to their children, while children were severely sanctioned for unfilial (búxiào) acts. Household heads (jiāzhǎng) were legally empowered and sometimes even obliged to punish members of their family.[14]

While the strong influence of traditional Chinese judicial philosophies ceded ground somewhat to western norms in the Qing, case records illustrate just how pervasive the old norms remained. In one case, after learning that his son was a habitual thief who disobeyed his orders not to steal, the father tied him up, pummeled him with the butt of an axe, and hacked at the boy’s hamstrings as he writhed on the ground, exsanguinating.[15] Because the son disobeyed his fathers’ orders, thereby shirking his filial duty, the Qing court cleared the father of any wrongdoing.[16] In another case, a court acquitted a father’s killing of his son for “using foul language,” as doing so was considered a capital offense.[17] Even in the Qing, when the court determined that fathers had “unreasonably” killed their sons, the harshest punishment was only beating.[18] In general, brutal punishments to children did not garner much public attention or outcry. This attitude has persisted into modern day China—while netizens perennially rail against corruption, far less is heard about the plight of children in the country, especially at the hands of the juvenile justice system. In general, Confucian value systems place greater value on community or family interests than those of a particular individual or class of individuals, such as women or children.

Republican reforms in the early 20th century had a great impact on juvenile punishment. Two major themes dominate the criminal reforms of the era: the expansion of the criminal justice apparatus as a whole, and the introduction of new, westernizing norms via a new set of penal laws.[19] Perhaps the most dramatic change was the introduction of imprisonment as a widespread punishment.[20] While this change appeared gradually, it had a profound effect on juvenile justice. The transition most clearly indicated a shift of authority over children’s crimes from the parents to the state. As public prisons cropped up during the late Qing, parents gained the ability to commit their own children to these places, squalid and miserable as they were.[21] While this was still a voluntary transfer of parental authority to the state, it was a drastic change. As children began to be convicted in the courts without parents present, the Guomin Dang (GMD) republican period marked the beginning of mass-scale, state-inflicted punishment on children largely independent of the will of the parents, a trend that would continue through the revolutionary period.

As the old Confucian traditions clashed with the new western norms that shattered the previous hegemony of family authority and feudal jurisprudence, the standards that had previously governed the punishment of children became murky and irregular in their application. But, overall, outcomes for children improved as the focus of punishment shifted from the criminal act itself towards the criminal as a person.[22] Sentencing judges in the Chinese Republic were statutorily instructed to consider state of mind, general capacity, upbringing, and other factors, not only when they passed judgment on juveniles, but for all defendants.[23] Reformatory schools were established on the provincial level, and two juvenile prisons were established in 1933 and 1934, respectively.[24] The resemblance of these new systems to the American, German, and Japanese systems was no accident, as the 20th century marked a period of intense Chinese desire to enter the world on a level footing with the more preeminent nations of the globe.[25]

The Chinese Civil War and resulting communist rule rocked the judicial systems yet again. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government did not have a juvenile justice system during the revolution or during the reign of Mao, though some of the revolutionary criminal law included provisions that mitigated punishment in various ways for juvenile convicts.[26] This step backwards was mostly the result of the communists’ distrust of western-trained legal specialists and their ideas, as well as a persecution of GMD lawyers and the closing of law schools alongside other centers of bourgeois intellectualism. Because Maoist theories saw all crime as the result of class struggle, Mao’s government neglected to give the proper legal attention to juvenile crime as an issue of social systems. Most juvenile crimes were handled informally through mediation committees, which provided a ideologically pleasing fusion of Maoist proletarianism with the traditional, Confucian method of dealing with crime through “a net of relationships.”[27]

The sparse provisions governing juvenile prosecution were generally nonbinding and served as sentencing guidelines rather than as strict protections for juveniles. Aside from the fact that parental involvement was occasionally encouraged for minor offenses, procedural treatment for juveniles was not substantially different under either the republican or communist governments. Through about 1960, most of the law governing children and youth came from official replies from higher courts and mostly concerned issues of criminal responsibility or sentencing guidelines.

The following decades saw a few minor changes set against a backdrop of political uncertainty and upheaval. The 1954 Regulation of Reform-through-labor (RTL, or láogǎi) directed those under 18 to newly-built reformatories* rather than labor camps, and a 1962 working rule institutionalized the rights of parents and school officials to be present during investigations of a juvenile or child.[28] These reforms came slowly, as the problem was far from urgent: crimes of 14 to 18 year olds as a percentage of total crime remained below one percent in the 1940s and 50s, rising to only three and seven percent in the 1970s and 80s, respectively.[29] Figures for ages 14 to 25 were low as well, with their crimes as a percentage of the total hovering around 30 percent in the 1950s and 60s and slowly rising to the mid-40 percent range by the 1970s.[30] During the early years of the PRC, mass scale migration was prevented by the Hukou** system, which, when combined with food rationing in the planned economy after its introduction in 1958, made urban migration a near impossibility for impoverished rural youth.[31] A comprehensive juvenile justice apparatus did not begin to appear in China until the mid-eighties, as sharp upticks in juvenile crime and increased migration forced the government to act.

How the Current System of Juvenile Justice Developed

Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms and the “opening up” of China (gǎigé kāifàng) from the late seventies onwards greatly accelerated economic growth, but also led to massive inflation and unchecked urban migration. This, in turn, led to greater social instability, especially in terms of youth crime. Because the market reform strategy to develop an export industry generated a massive demand for cheap urban labor, the government relaxed Hukou restrictions on travel somewhat, allowing a flood of migrant workers to move from rural areas to the cities. Because Hukou determined eligibility for benefits and social services, migrant workers had little to no access to hospitals, schools, social security or other government services in urban areas.

The migrant workers lived and worked in cities but never belonged, and for this reason their move to the cities is often known as “semi-urbanization.”  Juvenile crime rates (14-25) were already increasing in association with the baby boom of the cultural revolution years,[32] but they climbed even higher in this era: Juvenile crime increased from 61.2 percent of total crime in 1980 to 71.3 percent in 1985 and 74.1 percent in 1989.[33] Much of this increase happened at the same time as increasing numbers of migrant workers and their children were flowing into the cities. Without access to education or other social services, many turned to crime. To the present day, migrants and their children make up the lion’s share of juvenile offenders in cities.[34]

In response to these increases, China convened its first conference on juvenile crime in 1982. Since the influence of Maoist ideologies that had dominated the previous era had diminished immensely following the Cultural Revolution, the Western notion that juvenile crime was the result of social problems had gained some credibility among Chinese jurists.[35] As a result of the conference, the first juvenile tribunal appeared in Shanghai in November 1984. The development of the modern system of juvenile justice followed a familiar model for PRC legal systems: limited experimentation on the local level, followed by broad implementation, systematization and standardization across all areas, and finally the refinement and “deep reform” stage in which China’s juvenile justice system now finds itself.[36]

For the four years following the establishment of the Shanghai tribunal in 1984, several of the richer provinces and municipalities, including Beijing and Fujian, followed Shanghai’s lead and began to toy with their own tribunals, testing out various forms of operation and trial methods. While these tribunals were largely a legal experiment without explicit endorsement from national authorities, Beijing watched them closely. In 1988, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) formally declared at a meeting in Shanghai that juvenile tribunals were “worthwhile,” and juvenile courts began appearing throughout the country at an increased rate.

The second major milestone for China’s juvenile justice system occurred on 1 Feburary, 1991, when the SPC promulgated the first national normative document on the tribunals, Rules on Administering Juvenile Criminal Cases. This document delineated the philosophical purpose of the tribunals, and gave the first complete set of official guidelines for their operation, including some special rules of criminal procedure for the “trials” themselves.[37] A brief flurry of supporting rules and other judicial documents ensued, including several enocouraging inter-agency cooperation on juvenile crime and delinquency prevention.

This rule-making progress had domestic and international impact. Domestically, in September 1991, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) adopted the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, the first of China’s laws to explicitly protect “minors” as a class. As might be expected in an environment dominated by paternalistic Confucian philosophy, the word “responsibility” (zérèn) appears 10 times in the Law, emphasizing various groups’ communal duty to “protect” (bǎohù, appears 16 times) children.  The law followed the example of the earlier rules in that it explicitly recruited “The Communist Youth League organs, women’s federations, trade unions, youth federations, students’ federations, young pioneers’ organizations and other social organizations” to work together to enforce the law.[38] On the international stage, China ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which publically affirmed China’s commitment to children’s rights and opened it up to greater international scrutiny in this area. It was a timely move for China––by the end of 1991, the country had a basically functional system of juvenile justice that was already progressing towards compliance with international standards on the criminal prosecution of juveniles.

While most localities had dedicated mechanisms for processing juvenile offenders by 1991, standards varied widely: The Shanghai tribunal was functioning efficiently, but it was a rarity: the majority of juvenile cases were still handled by judicial officials who lacked the requisite specialization to work with children. The work of standardizing the juvenile justice system across the nation thus became the object of reform efforts, though they focused almost exclusively on courts, barely touching the other agencies that continued to deal with youth crime.

Meanwhile, increasing semi-urbanization continued to fuel the youth crime epidemic. While the reforms up to this point had attempted to halt juvenile crime, they only managed to slightly blunt the increases: in the six-year period between 1986 and 1992, delinquency rates doubled (from 100 to 200 out of 100,000) for ages 14-18 and nearly tripled (from 120 to 300 out of 100,000) for ages 14-25.[39]

After China ratified the CRC, in 1994 the SPC officially began to oversee all juvenile tribunals through the establishment of the Juvenile Tribunals Steering Group, as well as a General Office of Juvenile Tribunals.[40] Before these two bodies were established, the SPC had governed the juvenile courts through rules and interpretations, but had not controlled their operations directly. These new bodies allowed the high court not only to ensure that juvenile courts complied with central directives, but that they did so in a uniform, orderly way. While the internal administration worked on these guidelines, the central government instituted a series of small but prominent reforms of juvenile criminal law; most notably, it effectively ended capital punishment for juveniles in 1997.[41]

This wave of standardization and flashy reform was pushed along in 1999 by the passage of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency. This law was notable not only because it was the first to mention juvenile courts (shàonián fǎtíng) explicitly, but also because it distinguished “serious adverse acts,” (yánzhòng bùliáng xíngwéi) or delinquency, from “illegal conduct” (wéifǎ xíngwéi), creating a separate category for delinquency.[42] This cemented the bifurcated system that already existed: serious juvenile offenders were tried in juvenile court, while most other cases were handled through administrative courts or mediation, which has always been and continues to be the culturally preferable method for dispute resolution in China.[43]

Despite these changes, the juvenile crime rate (ages 14-18) remained relatively high, at 36.71 percent of total crimes in 1999.[44] The achievements of the juvenile courts’ standardization and development were impressive, but they couldn’t keep up with an urban population that increased from 36.2 to 49.7 percent of the nation’s population in the decade between 1990 and 2000.[45] Urban migration had a profound influence on juvenile crime, as the hundreds of millions of young migrant workers flowing into the cities from the countryside were removed from their customary social policing mechanisms and could not enjoy full citizenship or access to social services in the cities due to the residency requirements imposed under China’s Hukou system.

On the eve of the millennium, between 15 to 30 percent of migrant workers were youths, and many more had children that they either brought along or left behind.[46] The young workers were a major contributing factor to the high rates of youth crime, as migrants constituted anywhere from 45 to 91 percent of arrests in Chinas’ urban centers.[47] Even more problematic were the children of migrant workers. Those workers who were parents faced a stark choice: bring their children to the city where they would be divorced from their home without access to social services, or leave them behind in the countryside. Most still choose the latter option, and these “left behind” children today constitute 38 percent of all rural children. 57 percent live with their grandparents, but three percent of them live on their own. “Leaving behind” children creates a cycle of crime, as they are particularly vulnerable and often become offenders––over 80 percent of young migrant workers with criminal records were “left behind” as children.[48] The option of taking children along is just as bad––migrant children in cities fall behind in school, have little to no access to medical care when they get sick, and lack the community connections that are vital to child development. Across the country, migrant workers and their children make up over two thirds of all juvenile offenders, up from 50 percent in 2000.[49]

While the migrant worker phenomenon was and remains the main driver behind high rates of youth crime, the SPC’s objective of standardization continued largely without addressing migration issues directly; the CCP’s economic agenda required the cheap labor in the cities, and reforming the Hukou system was not as important.

In 2003, the National People’s Congress (NPC) Judicial Affairs Committee officially announced “the pilot work of juvenile courts should be carried out,” finalizing the central government’s approval of the juvenile courts.[50]  These reform efforts continued throughout the second decade of the 21st century, with some modest but real successes. In 2006, the SPC intensified the expansion of juvenile courts, assigning 17 intermediate people’s courts in large municipalities across the country as candidates for reform. By 2010, 179 juvenile judges and court clerks were at work in these pilot courts.[51]The courts have continued to spread across the country.

The Current System and International Compliance

In the context of China’s poor and lackadaisical compliance with international laws on human rights, juvenile justice stands out as an exception. China’s statutory regime for juvenile justice appears to be nearly fully compliant with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, enacted 1990) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, enacted 1966), in addition to the five guidelines[52] that the UN has issued regarding the administration of juvenile justice (the most comprehensive of these are the “Beijing Rules”).[53] Internationally, there is broad agreement that China has generally complied with the CRC and ICCPR enforcement bodies with regard to juvenile justice.[54] The fact of China’s compliance was first emphasized by the eighth amendment to China’s Criminal Law, which made it the first national general criminal statute to recognize the value of restraining orders, community correction, and sealed juvenile records, though it provided little mechanism for instituting these policies.[55] The 2012 amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law, which included a conspicuous new section on juvenile justice within the criminal defense system, has been regarded as far more important in affirming China’s compliance with international standards. While this new section mainly represented a codification and consolidation of rules and practices that had already been implemented in several jurisdictions, the appearance of the rules for juvenile justice in such a dramatic way piqued scholars’ interest.

One of the primary questions they’ve asked is: Why has China written this law in compliance with the body of UN-sponsored international law, when so many of its other laws fail to protect basic rights, such as freedom of expression, labor rights, and so on? To find an answer to this question, it is helpful to turn first to the international standards and examine to what extent the new Criminal Procedure Law actually complies with them. Because the law was adopted on March 14 2012 and went into effect on January 1, 2013, the data that would allow analysis of its on-the-ground impact is not yet available. Nevertheless, the statutory text provides a useful guide to potential enforcement, especially when considered in its historical context.

Chapter 1, part 5 of the 2012 Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), articles 266-276, represents the new section of the CPL concerning juvenile justice. Article 266 lays out  “education, rehabilitation, and rescue” as the objectives of the system of “education first with punishment as a supplement.” This purpose aligns well with the CRC, which calls for “reintegration”[56] as the fundamental goal of juvenile justice. While the meat of the new CPL shows a great deal of improvement in terms of international compliance, I would argue that scholars have overstated this improvement.[57]

In the case of the CPL, compliance with international norms generally means that the law provides procedural protections to minors within the adversarial system. Based on its statutory text, the CPL provides most of the rights stipulated in the UN documents: it gives juveniles access to free legal counsel,[58] provides for specially trained judicial staff and treatment,[59] guarantees separation from adult criminals in all stages of the judicial process,[60] gives parents and other responsible adults the right to participate,[61] ensures that records are automatically sealed upon completion of a juvenile sentence less than 5 years,[62] and allows the procurator to assume a preference for “conditional non-prosecution” for certain, limited cases.[63] In some areas, including the allowance for the presence of responsible adults besides the parents[64] and requiring analysis of the totality of the circumstances in addition to the crime,[65] the CPL goes beyond what international standards require. However, in other areas, the law does not provide the level of protections required. For example, the CPL does not give an adequate level of preference for diversion of the accused juvenile from imprisonment to other alternatives,[66] nor does it convincingly assure limited arrest for juveniles.[67] Article 274, banning public trials for minors, has obvious controversial elements.[68]

As the lengthy footnotes to the previous paragraph emphasize, China’s written law is mostly compliant with the body of international law concerning juvenile justice, or, at the very least, it is about as compliant as the United States’. While the provisions for trial alternatives are somewhat deficient, the core of the law—criminal trial procedure—is relatively solid with respect to international standards. As a whole, the children’s section of the CPL is certainly more compliant than it is in other areas of human rights concern, such as extrajudicial rendition or freedom of expression.

While the CPL’s protections for minors are certainly a step forward on paper, they have been in practice for only two years. The changes in the CPL certainly count for something, but the question of what exactly that “something” is cannot yet be answered definitively. This fact has not given much pause to those rejoicing over China’s juvenile justice reform. This exuberance, which is premature at best and irrational at worst, has reached far beyond China: Justice Anthony Kennedy even gave China’s reforms a “shout out” in his 2005 majority opinion in Roper v. Simmons, praising the country for ending juvenile capital punishment some 8 years before the Supreme Court’s opinion in that case abolished it in the United States. Some scholars have gone so far as to argue that the mere fact that the SPC has promulgated “guidelines” and “explanations”[69] to the law (items which accompany nearly every piece of national legislation in China), along with some local governments’ issuance of regulations that align with the law (again, this is routine), is convincing evidence “that the Chinese government is serious about implementing these reforms.”[70] They bolster these claims with statistics released by the Chinese government that show the number of juvenile cases declining every year since 2006 or 2008.[71]

But the official account and the focus on the statutes hides the true nature of juvenile justice in China: a confused system of criminal and administrative courts, official and unofficial mediation, and various public security agencies, a confusion that is ultimately explained by China’s state interests.

The Real Juvenile Justice System

Juvenile justice in China today is not a cohesive system. On the one hand, juvenile trials have a system of procedural protections that closely track the requirements of international law and whose flaws, while serious, are not obvious to the international community. Furthermore, while China’s prosecutorial alternatives appear progressive and exciting, they have yet to be implemented in a uniform manner, and they often conceal the true prevalence of juvenile crime and deny juveniles due process. Even if we were to accept the presumption that China will enforce its laws to their fullest extent, the system of juvenile justice will not achieve the requirements of international law, and the reforms will not have gone far enough. From a preliminary analysis of the aftermath of the 2012 CPL reform, it seems that China can fulfill its legitimacy interests without actually making the enormous changes that would allow its system to truly comply with international law: changing the formal process in the criminal courts is enough.

The greatest flaw in how the international community analyzes China’s juvenile justice system is that it’s overly focused on statutory reform, giving insufficient attention to the way that the system works in practice. The foremost cause of this misperception is related to the fact that in analyzing the state of juvenile justice in China, the lack of adequate statistics on juvenile crime and the juvenile justice apparatus as a whole is a serious problem. While a non-trivial but thematically limited body of independent criminological research has slowly emerged over the last decade, the main source for China’s official crime statistics are the yearbooks compiled by government agencies and their affiliates, which provide neither methodology nor sampling information. Furthermore, the published statistics often omit crucial data. This is of key importance when it comes to analyzing recent trends in juvenile justice. While official statistics for juvenile crime as a proportion of total crime show an uninterrupted decrease after 2006 (or 2008 if you count arrests instead of convictions),[72] this is accompanied by a marked rise in cases resolved through official mediation. Specifically, while instances of juvenile crime remained nearly constant during the period 2006-2012 as total crime rose by over 30 percent, cases handled by mediation more than doubled.[73] In areas not served by youth courts or specific delinquency apparatuses, China often handles juvenile matters in administrative courts, or, as always, through community or court mediation.[74] Essentially, there are four broad systems than can handle juvenile offenses in China: juvenile criminal or delinquency courts, the administrative court system, mediation apparatuses, and public security organs. In general, administrative courts mostly handle extremely minor matters, so the lack of juvenile specific data from these courts is not a major issue in analyzing youth crime. Because of strong preferences for “harmonious” methods of conflict resolution, mediation is used even for more serious cases. Even where youth courts exist, many boast high “mediation rates,” sometimes up to 100 percent.[75] This means that the vast majority of cases in these jurisdictions are settled through out-of-court mediation, in situations where the rules of the new CPL will never apply. If a juvenile case is handled in mediation, it is difficult to identify as such because of the way that mediation cases are classified. The Law Yearbook of China presents only five categories for mediation: “marriage and family”, “housing and land,” “neighbors,” “compensations for injury,” and “other.”[76] Youth crimes can appear under any of the categories above except “housing and land,” which accounted for less than 7 percent of all mediation cases in 2012. Of the other 93 percent, it is nearly impossible to tell what crimes went into each category. As far as official statistics are concerned, youth crime has quite literally become invisible.

Because of its long history in China as an alternative to the adversarial courts that are less compatible with Chinese social norms, Chinese citizens and leaders alike tend to see mediation as much more favorable than adversarial alternatives. This perception is not necessarily false. However, mediation in China presents serious problems, especially in cases involving children and youth. Mediation as it is practiced in China makes youth participants particularly susceptible to persuasion and overwhelmingly favors the more powerful party: mediation gives those bringing a case an unfair advantage over juvenile defendants.[77] The mediators employed in criminal cases are often very close to the “party line,” and often coerce confessions with promises of leniency.[78]

Because mediation procedures inherently provide fewer protections to juveniles who already have less capacity to advocate for themselves, high mediation rates could present special challenges. Until future research examines mediation procedures in juvenile cases more carefully, there will be no way of knowing either how many juvenile crime cases are being handled through mediation or whether the procedures are fair to accused juveniles. Without changes in reporting practices or new, independent criminological research covering the phenomenon of juvenile mediation, it will be extremely difficult to track the flow of youth cases into mediation and other alternatives to formal trials. This problem is compounded by the fact that many of the cases that do not directly involve juvenile criminal wrongdoing may be handled in a plethora of places outside of the juvenile court system: other courts, civil affairs agencies, and, most prominently, the public security organs. The public security organs are often the worst of the bunch, since their main approach to juvenile crime is to simply drive away mostly migrant youth by adopting policing policies that are openly hostile to them.[79]

These various systems obviously cannot coordinate their efforts, erring on the side of punishing juveniles rather than preventing crime. Each of these systems has its own problems. The increased procedural protections in juvenile criminal cases allow minors greater due process of law (approaching, and nearly reaching the level for adult cases, assuming the new CPL requirements are implemented effectively), but make it more difficult for judicial officials to give special protections to juveniles (this is also a core problem with the United States’ juvenile justice system). Mediation, administrative procedures, and other methods may have more flexibility in adjusting to the particular needs and circumstances of the juvenile, but are also more likely to distort justice and deprive the accused of due process. Drive-away policing, which is the dominant mode in China for the migrants who make up the majority of delinquents, simply moves crime elsewhere. With the exception of these inferior, stopgap measures taken up by the police, the other alternatives (administrative courts, mediation, other agencies etc.) aren’t necessarily worse or better than the criminal process—the problem is that the coexistence of many separate systems combined with the relative dearth of data on the efficacy of each makes it nearly impossible to assess how well China is doing, and creates a system as a whole that is at best unpredictable because it has so many disparate parts.

Among Chinese academics, the most widely-proposed way to resolve the problems inherent in the current system is for China to pass a national law that specifies under which judicial systems given types of juvenile cases are to be handled. Such a “unified Juvenile Law” would be able to clearly define the roles of criminal courts, administrative courts, and mediation within the juvenile justice system, and would give the system greater legitimacy than it has currently.[80] It could ensure that more of the juveniles processed get directed towards diversionary alternatives that prevent crime, providing children with protection, not punishment.

There are several roadblocks to this kind of reform: first of all, both historical evidence and current public opinion research indicate that the Chinese public (and, by extension, its leaders) place less emphasis on the rights and protection of children or other specific groups than it does on social units or society as a whole.[81] Second, the division of juvenile justice among the myriad systems makes it difficult to imagine joining them. Third, reforming police practices and ending the sentencing disparities that unfairly target migrant youth, which would both be required components of an effective juvenile law, would require China to meaningfully address the problem of urban migration. Finally, and most importantly, working directly to resolve the problems faced by urban migrants, who make up the bulk of juvenile delinquents, is not well aligned with the interest of the Chinese state. This suggests a potentially sinister reason for why juvenile crime has been unaccounted for everywhere except for in the juvenile courts­­; it may be the Chinese government is manipulating the statistics to hide the true rates of juvenile misconduct and, by extension, the seriousness of current social unrest related to the plight of migrants. 

The Status Quo: A Manifestation of China’s State Interests

The Chinese Government is primarily interested in preserving its own power and legitimacy as sovereign. Maintaining political, social, and economic stability is paramount to achieving these aims. Any theory about the juvenile justice reforms of the last two decades must reckon with state interests as it analyzes the glaring problem with juvenile justice in China: juvenile crime in China is deeply linked and highly correlated with semi-urbanization (the phenomenon of disenfranchised migrants living in cities without an urban Hukou). One of the only studies of juvenile delinquency that used independent birth cohort data to study the phenomenon found that juvenile offenders were overwhelmingly the children of low class workers from “dysfunctional families” of “peasant migrants.”[82] As discussed earlier, while a vastly disproportionate number of juvenile offenders in China are migrant workers, China’s statutory reforms on juvenile justice have largely focused on the phenomenon of juvenile crime per se rather than directing more energy towards closing the urban-rural divide that is fueling mass migration and social unrest.

With these broader interests in mind, the CCP, which de facto and de jure controls the Chinese Government, has three major interests at play in reforming the juvenile justice system: (1) maintaining its international image, (2) dealing with the social problems caused by juvenile crime, and (3) ensuring that any methods of dealing with juvenile crime do not disrupt the foundations of the state.

China faces international pressure from the UN and other major global actors to comply with the standards on juvenile justice. These actors measure this compliance by looking at both statutory reform and at changes in actual practices. Convincing the international community that reforms represent an actual improvement in human rights would bring the Chinese government much greater prestige and legitimacy in international eyes, as China has been repeatedly humiliated when western nations have denounced it for numerous human rights violations. This humiliation is part of a trend—China’s legitimacy as a state has been almost constantly in question since at least the 19th century.

It is clear that the PRC has long seen meeting international standards on juvenile justice as an achievable goal, since it adopted both the Beijing Rules and the CRC almost as soon as the General Assembly passed them, and has subsequently put an unusual amount of energy behind the reform efforts. Article two of the revised CPL specifies “respecting and safeguarding human rights” as a primary purpose of the law, which clearly shows that China is acutely aware of its poor reputation on human rights and wants to showcase the new CPL as a sign of a sea change. As already discussed, the language of the CPL closely tracks that of international law, and it would be naïve to think that this kind of adoption of the global norm isn’t at least partially an appeal to the international community. While some scholars cynically (if correctly) pointed out that the CPL is “(mostly) old wine in new bottles,” the international community as a whole greeted its entirety and especially its juvenile protections[83] with great fanfare as state media propagandized the law as a stepwise, pragmatic improvement.[84]

Of course, if the PRC’s compliance with its reforms and the implementation of the new CPL is to be closely monitored by international bodies, it would have to do more than simply put on the appearance of changing its rules. As of now, however, reporting requirements for the relevant international treaties are very lax. The CRC and the associated 5 rules, for example, have only a “soft enforcement mechanism.”[85] This means that China’s only responsibility to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the body tasked with enforcing the CRC under Article 43) is to “submit a self assessment based on periodic reports” that allows the committee to assess “the progress made […] in achieving the realization of the obligations [specified under the CRC].”[86]

So, from an enforcement perspective, China doesn’t have to show much beyond changing the laws to convince the international community that it is doing the right thing for juveniles. Of course, China’s real reputation on juvenile justice comes not only from its record at the UN, but from general perceptions about how the system functions. These perceptions are shaped mostly by the more visible reforms that China has put into practice.

China’s juvenile justice system has some extremely progressive and beneficial aspects that go beyond the protections that the new CPL provides.* Perhaps the most prominent example is China’s “round-table trials” (Yuánzhuō shěnpàn) for juveniles.[87] Unlike a traditional trial, all participants––judges, the accused juvenile(s), procurators, legal representatives, and often parents or school officials sit around a round, oval, or U-shaped table.[88] The defendants are unrestrained and listen to the officials as adjudication is carried out in a conversational manner, transforming the trial into an educational experience (the juvenile portion of the table is even sometimes shaped like a book).[89] Studies have shown the effectiveness of round table trials, and courts widely utilize them: of 148 youth courts in Shandong province, 83 percent used round-table trial methods.[90] In addition to the widely utilized “round-table trial” methods, courts are piloting other measures that could potentially be adopted by later national legislation, including suspended judgment,[91] penalty mitigation,[92] standardization of sentencing,[93] introduction of psychological evaluations as evidence and treatment-based corrections,[94] community-based alternatives to criminal sanctions,[95] and “restorative justice” approaches.[96], [97] Of course, it’s important to realize that these pilot methods are used in only a few courts around the country, and are not codified or even specifically encouraged in any national rules or legislation. Additionally, judicial “alternatives” often work against the procedural protections of the new CPL, because many of those protections mostly apply only in the adversarial setting of a trial. Still, the international community has lauded these developments as real tangible steps forward. Though these are real improvements, the absence of any significant international discourse on the content of these alternatives and whether they actually deliver on their promises should certainly be cause for those interested in the real state of juvenile justice in the PRC to be concerned.

Unfortunately, the most recent complete datasets available are from 2012, the year before the law was implemented. The question of whether China is serious about implementing the reforms of the 2012 CPL revision is still very much open. So far, the data is mixed. One encouraging piece of evidence is that while the procuratoriates rejected only 17.51 percent of juvenile arrests (dàibǔ) in 2012, that number rose to 25.23 percent in 2013 and 26.22 percent in 2014. The corresponding numbers for rejections of juvenile indictments were 5.18, 6.65, and 7.34 percent for 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively.[98] However, the rate of non-custodial sentences for juveniles fell from 41.75 to 40.24 percent from 2012-2014.[99] This could be a good sign if it means that only more substantive cases are ending in the courts, but it could also indicate that sentences are getting harsher in certain cases. And from 2007 to 2012, the proportion of minors receiving legal assistance at trial increased only modestly, from 27.76 to 34.75 percent of all cases.[100] In short, while there certainly has been some improvement, it is almost impossible to believe that China will realize the full promises of the CPL in the near future, and without more statistics than the government is releasing, the picture of China’s compliance will remain hazy at best, and entirely opaque at worst.

Beyond presenting a rosy picture to the world, China has a serious interest in actually handling the phenomenon of juvenile delinquency effectively. Not only are high rates of delinquency a national embarrassment, but cases involving young offenders, especially violent criminals, have a potential to polarize public opinion, leading to heated criticism of the government.* Chinese citizens, and especially netizens, frequently interact with the criminal justice apparatus from the outside, making their concerns heard and creating a strong public consciousness around issues of criminal justice reform.[101]

It is extremely important to understand the government’s interest in reducing juvenile crime as subordinate to its interest in handling juvenile crime effectively in the interest of maintaining stability and economic prosperity. The leaders of China that it can handle the problem of youth crime without tackling its root cause: internal migration.

The migrants who make up the bulk of juvenile arrests across large cities in China are treated very differently from other juvenile offenders. Migrant children often are unable to attend schools in the cities or lack steady work, leaving them idle and likely to resort to theft to sustain themselves: over a third of juvenile offenders in 2014 neither attended school nor worked, even part time.[102] Across China, while migrants make up only 20 percent of the total population, they make up well over 50 percent of juvenile crime.[103][104] In 2010, Shanghai had 570,000 migrant children aged 15 to 19 alone,[105] and while it wouldn’t allow them to attend the city’s high schools, it had no problem arresting them: 95 percent of the juveniles arrested in the city from 2008-2010 were migrants.[106] In the industrial city of Shenzhen, migrants make up 75 percent of juvenile arrests.[107] Sentences are also far harsher for migrants: In 2010 Shanghai’s courts handed out suspended sentences to 63 percent of youth with local Hukou, but only suspended 15 percent of migrant children’s sentences.[108] Often, poor migrant children are specifically disenfranchised because they cannot pay damages, which are usually considered a mitigating factor in sentencing. In the famous “Li Gang Rape” case, for example, a young woman was beaten and raped by Li Tianyi, the son of a general, and four accomplices.[109] While Li was ultimately sentenced to the minimum 10 years for rape, two of his accomplices walked free with suspended sentences: they had paid almost $25,000 each to the victim.[110] Paying compensatory damages of this magnitude is nearly always impossible for migrant children, who usually liquate the items they steal as soon as they can to support themselves.

China’s current policies handle this crime efficiently, but there is little evidence to support the conclusion that they reduce the actual crime rate. Since Deng’s reforms, public security organs have responded to increases in migrant crime by eliciting a public response “similar to reactions against vagrants during the Industrial Revolution in Britain”: ostracization and discrimination.[111] Until the “custody and repatriation” (shōuróng qiǎnsòng) system was abolished under public pressure in 2012, migrants were regularly detained without trial for extended periods of time for even minor offenses or for lack of proper residency documentation, after which they were sent back to their rural hometowns. While police can no longer legally use this approach, their strategy largely remains the same throughout all of China: drive the migrants away.[112]

Finally, while migrant semi-urbanization causes significant social unrest, China has a strong interest in maintaining it, or at least in not dismantling it quickly. This is because bringing down the urban-rural divide would require fiscal reforms that would fundamentally change the nature of the Chinese economy and possibly disrupt the power structure of the Chinese state itself. First of all, one of the Chinese government’s major sources of revenue, especially on the local level, depends on the fact that it reserves the sole right to convert rural to urban land. On average, 70 percent of tax revenues go straight to national coffers, leaving little left for the local governments that are responsible for the bulk of social service provision.[113] Governments often supplement their income by using their power to take land from farmers, compensating them for what usually amounts to the discounted value of 30 years’ harvest. This far underestimates the actual value because it fails to take into account the value of land improvements or harvests beyond 30 years, in addition to other factors.[114] The government then rezones the land as buildable urban lots and sells the rights to developers for as much as 20 to 30 times the value at which it was purchased, pocketing the difference.

The government could potentially make the process of converting Hukou from rural to urban easier without giving up its exclusive rezoning privilege. But there’s evidence that it won’t be enough to solve the problem: a July 2013 survey of 7,000 rural Hukou holders found that only a quarter thought that getting an urban Hukou was important, and only half of those rural Hukou holders whose entire families lived in the cities thought it was important.[115] According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, around 70 percent of migrants do not wish to give up their rural Hukou for fear of losing their land without adequate compensation.[116] A study by the Sichuan Bureau of Statistics found that under the current land policies, 90 percent of migrants in the province’s cities were not interested in obtaining an urban Hukou.[117] Until rural migrants can freely sell their land for a fair price, or are otherwise ensured fair compensation for their land, they are not interested in trading their rural Hukou for urban ones. Because local governments receive so little in taxes, they depend on rural-urban “flippings” for most of their revenue, making it seem unlikely that the central government will take the necessary steps that would incentivize rural migrants to convert their Hukou to become urbanites in the foreseeable future: doing so would entail simply too much risk with almost no (short- or mid-term) reward.

Additionally, another, even more difficult problem looms: leveling the playing field for urban and rural Hukou holders would be extremely expensive. Following the last fiscal reforms in 1994, during the late 1990s through the 2000s, the central government instituted a series of land reforms that “spun off” the primary responsibility for administering the Hukou system to local governments, in the hope that a solution to the social services problem could be devised on a local level.[118] Unfortunately, these local initiatives have enjoyed very limited success. Currently, migrants still have little to no access to social services in the cities, and providing access would require massive amounts of money that local governments simply do not have.

The trouble is that in China, the migration problem is deeply linked to the root causes of juvenile crime. For example, one of the major problems that migrant workers’ children face in the cities is lack of access to educational services: since they do not have an urban Hukou it is almost always practically impossible for them to attend urban schools, and, as a result, children with urban Hukou are 3.5 times more likely to attend middle school and 16.5 times more likely to attend high school than their counterparts who hold rural Hukou; for tertiary education these disparities are even bigger: urban children are 55.5 times more likely to attend junior college and 281.5 times more likely to attend university than rural youth.[119]

Migrants have tried to raise these issues on their own, but the government has responded not only with indifference, but with force. When the New Citizens’ Movement held small, peaceful demonstrations calling for the educational equality of migrant children in November 2013 (more than a year after the passage of the new CPL), the government responded with a vicious crackdown, detaining scores of key figures without trial.[120] Local governments have proposed reforms and some, like the city of Zhongshan, have even implemented reforms to allow migrants to obtain urban Hukou. All of the polices instituted so far in medium to large cities have carried significant qualifying conditions for migrants that are difficult and sometimes nearly impossible for them to meet, including educational, financial, employment, and other requirements.[121] Unsurprisingly, the policies have not worked very well. Zhongshan, whose policy the central government held up as a model during 2014 reforms and praised for its unique “point system” that allowed rural migrants to obtain urban Hukou, had only 30,000 out of its total population of 1,600,000 migrants—just under 2 percent—gain urban status under the plan.[122] If 2 percent enrollment counts as success to the central government, it seems obvious that the Hukou problem will not be resolved anytime soon.

While the central government is also slowly introducing some minor reforms to the Hukou system on the national level, these only scratch the surface of the problem. Even by the government’s own estimates, the reforms will grant urban Hukou to at most 100 million by 2020, less than a third of the urban migrant population that would be projected at that time based on the assumption that the rate of urban migration remains at current levels.[123] This assumption is probably optimistic, as the number of outgoing migrant workers has grown uninterruptedly since 1980.[124] Even according to the government’s own estimates, which take into account the current reforms, the population of migrant workers in China will increase by 10 million a year for the next 30 years.[125] Even if the central government’s plans play out perfectly, 100 million rural-to-urban Hukou conversions would barely make a dent.

The only feasible way for China to end the urban-rural divide and migrant problems created by Hukou system, thereby cutting off juvenile crime at its roots, would be to institute another wave of fiscal reform, and plenty of it.  The vehemence of local leaders’ resistance to any Hukou reforms that come without additional tax revenue to fund social services makes comprehensive reform impossible unless it is matched by increased funds.[126] Given the current reality that the costs of Hukou reform would fall mainly on local governments, these fiscal reforms would come primarily as some mix of three policies: increasing the proportion of tax revenues that go to the local governments, instituting a value added tax (VAT) to increase government revenues overall, and creating nationalized welfare policies that distribute more benefits to poor and rural migrants, removing the crucial link between Hukou and government benefits.

At this point, anyone familiar with the Chinese state should be chuckling: these reforms would likely take decades to implement in a politically feasible manner, and there’s little incentive for national rulers to change the rules, as doing so would almost certainly decrease the central government’s income. While in the very long run, this reform would be good for the people, its short-term consequences would mean an end to the cheap labor provided by the rural-urban disparity and a significant decrease in GDP growth rates for the foreseeable future as the economy would shift away from its current dependence on that labor. This would almost certainly spell trouble for the CCP, which in many ways has based its legitimacy on its ability to provide high levels of relatively stable economic growth.

It is now clear why China has concentrated so much on reforming and refining the formal judicial processes of the juvenile court rather than giving attention to the other mechanisms that deal with juvenile crime: the court presents an internationally “up-to-code” version of juvenile justice, even if it does not tackle the underlying problems that migrants face. In short, there is no “easy way out” of the migrant worker problem, and without solving that problem, China’s options for reducing juvenile crime will be extremely limited.


The Way Forward: Areas for Reform and Research

Of course, “extremely limited” does not mean nonexistent. Several concrete policy steps, both on the international and domestic level, as well as additional research in key areas, might help pave the way towards a better juvenile justice system in China, and perhaps even speed resolution of the migrant issue. One of the largest problems with the way the international community sees the issue of juvenile justice is that it has given too much weight to statutory reform and has not done enough independent investigation of affairs “on the ground.” One way to improve the latter from a purely international perspective would be to strengthen the CRC reporting requirements by creating a “hard” enforcement mechanism that gives third-party inspectors a chance to more thoroughly understand the realities of juvenile justice in China, and, of course, to verify the official statistics on crime. Another way, which could be accomplished through cooperation between state actors, domestic activists, and NGOs, would be to push for China to pass a unified juvenile law that clearly defines which government agencies are responsible for the various aspects of juvenile crime.

The international community must also work hard to prevent impending threats to reform. The reality is that most of the current reforms, especially the 2012 CPL amendment, were greatly helped along by NGOs, which have held exchanges with judicial officials, met with Chinese legislators and judges, and helped to translate international law into measures that would be practicable in the Chinese system.[127] Unfortunately, the NPC is currently considering a new NGO management law modeled after Russia’s that would subject both domestic and foreign NGOs to an oppressive degree of scrutiny and regulation.[128] Given the dependence of past reforms on NGO pressure, the new law is likely to greatly hamper future and ongoing reform efforts. Increased international pressure on China might lead to improvements in the law’s terms or an enforcement schedule that is more generous to NGOs.

While the Hukou problem is far more difficult to tackle than juvenile justice as a separate issue, international governments and NGOs may nevertheless benefit from focusing more of their human rights pressures on China towards reformation of the Hukou system. Compared to other human rights issues such as freedom of speech or religion, the semi-urbanization problem gets relatively little international attention; garnering single-digit mentions in the Congressional Executive Commission on China’s most recent (2014) report. And unlike these issues, the Hukou problem can be addressed locally as well as nationally. While local government policies are only part of the solution, it is clear that success on the local level increases the likelihood that China will implement a given policy nationwide. Local policymakers in China have been receptive to international attention in the past, and will likely continue to be in the future.

Domestically, local leaders can do a great deal to improve juvenile justice outcomes. When it comes to the system itself, local courts have a great deal of discretion in how they can handle cases of juvenile crime, especially minor crimes. If the history of the juvenile court in China tells us anything, it is that when more courts experiment with effective alternatives, those alternatives are more likely to become the default procedures of the next generation. For example, the great popularity of mediation is understandable because of China’s deep legacy of non-confrontational problem solving. The next step of reform is to introduce psychologically- and age- appropriate mediation techniques that are sufficiently independent from political influences. This is already happening in the Nanjing Intermediate People’s Courts, and if more courts follow their lead, outcomes for offending youth across China will improve significantly.[129]

Another one of the major domestic factors standing in the way of juvenile justice and better treatment of the overwhelmingly migrant youth offenders is nearly-ubiquitous public disgust for migrants,[130] widespread discrimination against them,[131] and a general social atmosphere of indifference towards the poor treatment of juvenile offenders.[132] While public opinion is difficult to change, many young Chinese activists are tackling the problem on the grassroots level. One particularly famous example occurred when popular TV show host Cui Yongyuan invited 154 migrant workers to dinner in a posh Beijing hotel.[133] As he joked with a reporter from The Beijing Daily his message was clear: “Respect for migrant workers should be business as usual.”[134] Other movements have cropped up as well: On Chinese Valentine’s day 2012, several college students invited 30 migrant workers to dinner on national television.[135] Much work remains to be done, however, and the more progress activists make in changing urbanites’ perceptions of migrants and the juvenile offenders among them, the more likely it is that local and national politicians will support reforms to help these vulnerable populations.

Finally, on both the international and domestic stage, scholars have an enormous role to play in pushing the reform of China’s juvenile justice and Hukou systems forward. First, the recent movements in Western Europe and North America to independently “cross-check” government crime statistics must be transferred to China in order to provide an accurate picture of the macro-scale of the Chinese juvenile justice apparatus.[136] Second, researchers can fill the gap left by official statistics by researching underreported phenomena including mediation of juvenile crimes and use of administrative courts in matters of juvenile delinquency. Third, researchers, often working together with NGOs have developed many of the reforms that we see reflected today in China’s juvenile justice system.[137] Because researchers have less political baggage than diplomats or foreign politicians, NPC legislators and other key figures in the Chinese legislative and judicial systems have historically been more receptive to their calls for reform.


While the complexity of Hukou reform may make the task of reducing juvenile crime in China seem daunting, the history of how China has treated juvenile crime shows just how malleable the systems managing juveniles can be, and how massive reform can occur in less than a decade. This paper has primarily discussed how juvenile crime in China is intimately and inextricably linked to the phenomenon of migrant semi-urbanization as it intertwines with the Hukou system, and has argued that China can manage juvenile crime effectively only in conjunction with resolution of the migrant issue. China’s 2012 reforms to the Criminal Procedure Law marked a significant advance in the rights of children at trial, but the international community mistakenly took the law as an overall improvement in China’s juvenile justice system, largely failing to recognize that much of the way China manages juvenile crime has nothing to do with these juvenile courts. The juvenile justice system per se still has much room for reform, and as more changes are implemented, the need to resolve the migrant problem will become more and more obvious. Since the establishment of the PRC, reform in these areas has been slow, but the pragmatic steps of both the national legislature and of local leaders have shown promise, both in improving the state of juvenile justice and in easing the struggle of migrants. Improvement is slow, and perhaps too slow by some standards, but at the very least the overall trend in juvenile justice for the last half century has been one of constant improvement in judicial standards and practices. Through the guidance of passionate China activists and astute leaders, this improvement may continue to accelerate; after all, the task of reducing juvenile crime in China, if Herculean, is emphatically not Sisyphean.


[1] Zhōngguó fǎlǜ shèhuì, Zhōngguó fǎlǜ niánjiàn, 2013.

[2] Jie Zhang and Eric Y. Liu, “Confucianism and Youth Suicide in Rural China,” Review of Religious Research 54, no. 1 (2012): 93–111.

[3] Wáng lìmín, Tánglǜxīn tàn (Běijīng: Běijīng dàxué chūbǎn shè, 2007).

[4] Klaus Mühlhahn, Criminal Justice in China: A History (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2009).

[5] Yuning Wu, “People’s Mediation in China,” in The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Criminology (Routledge, 2010),, 117.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Brian E. McKnight, Law and Order in Sung China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992),

[8] Zhào guólíng and Cháng lěi, “Zhōngguó wèi chéngnián rén shěnpàn zhìdù de fǎ zhǎn,” 97.

[9] Geoffrey MacCormack, Traditional Chinese Penal Law, Law in East Asia Series (London: Wildy, Simmonds & Hill, 2013).

* Of course, sentences were ordinarily still quite severe by modern standards.

[10] Wángyīnglín, Sānzìjīng (Běijīng: Qīng píngguǒ shùjù zhōngxīn, 2013).

[11] Mühlhahn, Criminal Justice in China.

[12] Ibid, 41.

[13] Dennis S. W. Wong, “Changes in Juvenile Justice in China,” Youth & Society 32, no. 4 (June 1, 2001): 492–509, doi:10.1177/0044118X01032004005, 498.

[14] John Henry Gray, China, a History of the Laws, Manners and Customs of the People, ed.  W.G. Gregor, 1878.

[15] Tongzu Qu, Law and Society in Traditional China (Mouton and Company, 1961).

[16] Ibid, 41.

[17] Ibid, 123.

[18] Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, Third Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013).

[19] Mühlhahn, Criminal Justice in China, 58.

[20] Mühlhahn, Criminal Justice in China.

[21] Gray, China, a History, 236.

[22] Zhào chēn, Jiānyù xué (Běijīng: Běijīng zhōng xiàn tà fāng kējì fāzhǎn yǒuxiàn gōngsī, 1933).

[23] Mühlhahn, Criminal Justice in China, 67.

[24] Zhao, Jiānyù xué, 104.

[25] Ibid, 67.

[26] Yáojiànlóng, Zhǎng dà chéngrén: Shàonián sīfǎ zhìdù de jiàngòu (Běijīng: Zhōngguó rénmín gōng’ān dàxué chūbǎn shè, 2003),

[27] Wong, “Changes in Juvenile Justice in China,” 499.

* As juvenile specific RTL facilities were built, it would become permissible for juveniles to be sent there.

[28] Zhao, Jiānyù xué, 105.

[29] Børge Bakken, “Crime, Juvenile Delinquency and Deterrence Policy in China,” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, no. 30 (1993): 29–58, doi:10.2307/2949991. 39.

[30] Ibid, 38.

** Hukou, which roughly translates to “household registration,” is a system existing in China since 1958 that restricts free movement within the country by classifying the population into two categories: agricultural/rural and nonagricultural/urban. Those holding urban Hukou (the word refers to the individual registration as well as to the system as a whole) have much more expansive access to social services; unsurprisingly, to this day it is extremely hard to convert a rural Hukou to an urban one. While Hukou-related restrictions on movement have been eased somewhat in the half century since the system began, the two-tiers of citizenship continue to be the root cause of immense social problems in China, and the glaring gap between rural and urban residents in terms of rights and benefits continues to provoke both the anger of citizens and the fascination of scholars.

[31] Jianhua Xu, “Urbanization and Inevitable Migration.” In The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Criminology, Routledge, 2010,, 211.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Kāng shùhuá and Xiàng zéxuǎn, Qīng shàonián fǎxué xīn lùn., 95.

[34] John Kamm, “Trying Juveniles,” The New York Times, November 29, 2012,

[35] Dennis S.W. Wong, “Juvenile Protection and Delinquency Prevention Policies in China,” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology 37, no. 1 suppl (December 2004): 52–66, doi:10.1177/00048658040370S104.

[36] Zhao, “Juvenile Criminal Justice System in China,” 105-106.

[37] Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó zuìgāo rénmín fǎyuàn, “Guānyú Bànlǐ Shàonián Xíngshì ànjiàn de Ruògān Guīdìng.”

[38] Quánguó réndà chángwěi huì, Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó wèi chéngnián rén bǎohù fǎ (2012 xiūzhèng).

[39] Wong, “Changes in Juvenile Justice in China,” 494.

[40] Zhāng zōngtáng and Yáng wéihàn, “Fǎyuàn xū shèlì shěnlǐ wèi chéngnián rén fànzuì ànjiàn de zhuānmén jīgòu.”

[41] Kamm, “Trying Juveniles.”

[42]Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó yùfáng wèi chéngnián rén fànzuì fǎ (2012 xiūzhèng), Article 34.

[43] Wu, “People’s Mediation in China,” 166.

[44] Zhōngguó fǎlǜ niánjiàn, 2000.

[45] Xu, “Urbanization and Inevitable Migration,” 210.

[46] China Labor Bulletin, “Migrant Workers and Their Children,” China Labour Bulletin, June 27, 2013,

[47] Xu, “Urbanization and Inevitable Migration,” 213.

[48]Wáng jué, “Ràng Liúshǒu értóng Xīnlíng Bù Zài `liúshǒu’.”

[49] “Hard Times,” The Economist, October 26, 2013,

[50] Zhao, Jiānyù xué, 106

[51]Chéndéyǒng, Shàonián fǎtíng zhǐdǎo xiǎozǔ, and Zuìgāo fǎyuàn, Zhōngguó shàonián sīfǎ.

[52] These are:

(1)United Nations Economic And Social Council, “Economic and Social Council Resolution 1997/30: Administration of Juvenile Justice,” July 21, 1997,;

(2) United Nations General Assembly, “Assembly Resolution 40/33: United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (‘the Beijing Rules’),” November 29, 1985,;

(3) United Nations General Assembly, “Assembly Resolution 45/112: United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines),” December 14, 1990,;

(4) United Nations General Assembly, “Assembly Resolution 45/110: United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (The Tokyo Rules), G.A. Res. 45/110, Annex, 45 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49A) at 197, U.N. Doc. A/45/49 (1990).,” 1990,;

(5) United Nations General Assembly, “Assembly Resolution 45/113: United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of Their Liberty, G.A. Res. 45/113, Annex, 45 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49A) at 205, U.N. Doc. A/45/49 (1990),” 1990,

[53] Stephanie Persson, “China Talks Juvenile Justice Reform: A Constructivist Case Study,” SSRN Scholarly Paper (Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, February 1, 2014),, 4.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Guoling Zhao, “Juvenile Criminal Justice System in China,” in The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Criminology (Routledge, 2010),, 111.

[56] Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 40(1), September 1990,

[57] Specifically, Persson, “China Talks Juvenile Justice Reform,” in which the author presumes that the new law is nearly perfect from a compliance perspective.

[58] Article 267 of the CPL calls for law enforcement, the procurator, or the courts to obtain appoint counsel from the legal aid organization for any “juvenile criminal suspect” who “has not retained a defender” regardless of need. This is an interesting change from the previous law, since Article 51 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors (as amended in 2005) placed the burden squarely on the legal aid apparatus, which was not an actual participant in the trial. Within the broader context of the juvenile justice section, it is one of the only sections that actually place a responsibility on a specific body rather than simply requiring it without specification. CPL Article 267 provision echoes CRC Article 37(d), which provides that juvenile suspects “shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance,” in addition to similar requirements for “legal assistance […] without payment” in ICCR article 14(d).

[59] Article 266 of the CPL provides that officials handling the case must be “familiar with the special qualities of juveniles.” This fits nicely with Beijing Rule 12.1, which stipulates that “special training” is a requirement for law enforcement personnel “who frequently deal with juveniles.” The CPL, however, does not specify how this new training will occur. Article 480 of the judicial explanations also provide for strict restrictions on the use of restraints, and article 484 of the rules requires the language used in court to be comprehensible by the juvenile. This is in line with Beijing Rule 14.2, which provides that “the proceedings shall be conducive to the best interests of the juvenile and shall be conducted in an atmosphere of understanding, which shall allow the juvenile to participate therein and to express herself or himself freely”

[60] Article 269 of the CPL specifies that juveniles held in any form of custody must be “detained, managed, and educated separately from adults.” This lines up well with CRC article 37(c), which states “every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so.”

[61] Article 270 of the CPL requires that a “legal representative” of the child be present at any interrogations and that all records be provided to the representative. The representative can “exercise the juvenile’s rights on their behalf” and can make statements on behalf of the juvenile. The legal representative may be separate from legal counsel, and article 106(3) of the CPL specifies that it can be a “parent, adoptive parent, guardian” or another entity with “duty to protect.” Beijing Rule 15.2 provides for parents or guardians to “participate in the proceedings;” here, the CPL is even more generous to the accused than international law would require.

[62] This requirement is enunciated under CPL Article 275, with an exemption only on the basis of overriding regulation. While the CRC contains only vague requirements that a right “to have his or her privacy fully respected at all stages of the proceedings” (CRC Artcle 40(2)(b)(vii)), Beijing Rule 21 asserts that “records of juvenile offenders shall be kept strictly confidential and closed to third parties” and “shall not be used in adult proceedings in subsequent cases involving the same offender.” While it would appear that China has less protections that would be required by international law here, the Beijing Rule it includes a vague privacy exemption for “other duly authorized persons” that is difficult to interpret with clarity.

[63] Articles 271-273 outline the procedures for what the CPL calls “conditional non-prosecution” (Article 271). Eligible offenders are those who are both (a) facing a sentence of under one year in duration and (b) “display regret for the crime” (Article 271). Procurators must conduct a hearing with law enforcement officials and victims before moving forward with a conditional non-prosecution, and victims retain the right to appeal under articles 175 and 176 (Article 271). The probationer period lasts from 6 months to one year, and may be conditioned on acceptance of “corrections and education” and “compliance with supervision” (Article 272). Probation must be withdrawn and prosecution initiated if, during the probation period, the suspect commits a new crime or violates the rules of probation (Article 273). In the eyes of international law, this provision is probably too ungenerous, as CRC Article 40(4) provides for “counseling […] and other alternatives” be provided, not just the “corrections and education” specified in CPL article 272. The commentary to Beijing Rule 11 (on diversion) emphasizes that “in the majority of cases, non-intervention would be the best response.” Additionally, the CPL rules for conditional non-prosecution afford very few, if any, procedural protections to the accused. The limited scope and applicability of and the numerous roadblocks to conditional non-prosecution in China makes it seem unlikely that the CPL provides the full prosecutorial protections envisioned by the UN General Assembly in this area.

[64] See note 61.

[65] While the GMD legal reforms had included totality of the circumstances analysis for all criminal cases in the legal reforms that it introduced after the collapse of the Qing dynasty (page 6), the revolution swept these changes away until they returned in a limited capacity for minors in Article 268 of the CPL, which states that judicial officials “may” (kěyi) consider “the circumstances of the juvenile suspect or defendant’s upbringing, the motivations for the offense, the suspect’s supervisory and educational conditions, and any other relevant circumstances.” While “social inquiry reports” are recommended in Beijing Rule 16, CPL Article 267 provides for a more expansive view, even if it does not specify the requirements of the “investigation.”

[66] See notes 63 and 67.

[67] When it comes to actually protecting juveniles from unfair arrest, CPL Article 269 seems like little more than a paper tiger. While it states emphatically that “strict restrictions shall apply to arrest procedures,” the word “arrest” (dàibǔ) tends to refer to the procedure of the police obtaining the procurator’s authorization to proceed with a case, which is more analogous to the application of getting a warrant than it is to “arrest” in the American or British sense. This provision is clearly in line with neither Article 37(b) of the CRC, which specifies that a child’s “arrest […] shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time,” nor the commentary on Beijing Rule 10.2, which states that “the question of release shall be considered without delay.” Especially considering the lack of adequate procedures for prosecutorial diversion (see note 63), this deficiency raises the frightening possibility that children of less favored social groups could be easily arrested, detained without trial, and forced into conditional non-prosecution agreements that significantly restrict their liberty without giving them a chance to prove their innocence.

[68] Article 274 of the CPL, which asserts “for a defendant under 18, do not hold an open trial,” seems to conform with prevailing UN standards, since CRC article 40(2)(vii) states that a child has the right “to have his or her privacy fully respected at all stages of the proceedings.” That said, in certain cases this could conflict with Article 14(1) of ICCR, which guarantees the right to “a fair and public hearing,” with limited exceptions that would not seem to cover all juvenile cases to the degree that China’s law does.

[69] It’s worth noting that in the period since the law was introduced, the SPC has issued only one explanation to the law, which highlights the need to listen to victims before the procurator can opt for conditional non-prosecution under CPL Articles 271-273, a move that, if anything, somewhat weakens the protections for juveniles.

[70] Persson, “China Talks Juvenile Justice Reform,” 8.

[71] Zhōngguó fǎlǜ shèhuì, ed., Zhōngguó fǎlǜ niánjiàn, 2000.

[72] Zhōngguó fǎlǜ shèhuì, Zhōngguó fǎlǜ niánjiàn, 2000-2012.

[73] Ibid, 2006; 2012.

[74] Juvenile Justice Systems: International Perspectives, ed. John A. Winterdyk (Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2002).

[75] Zhōu kǎi, “Shànghǎi liǎng qū shàonián tíng tiáojiě chèsù lǜ dá 100%.”

[76] Zhōngguó fǎlǜ shèhuì, Zhōngguó fǎlǜ niánjiàn. And Zhōngguó fǎlǜ shèhuì, Zhōngguó fǎlǜ niánjiàn, 2000-2012.

[77] Wong, “Changes in Juvenile Justice in China.” 501.

[78] Ibid, 503-504.

[79] J. Xu, “Drive-Away Policing and Situational Crime Prevention in China: An Analysis of Motorcycle Ban (jinmo) Policy in Guangzhou,” International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 56, no. 2 (April 1, 2012): 239–64, doi:10.1177/0306624X10395715, 253.

[80] Zhao, “Juvenile Criminal Justice System in China,” 111.

[81] Zhào guólíng and Cháng lěi, “Shàonián sīfǎ gǎigé zhōng fǎguān yǔ gōngzhòng rèn zhī zhī bǐjiào,” 110.

[82] David Drissel, “Subterranean Sources of Juvenile Delinquency in China: Evidence from Birth Cohort Surveys,” Asian Journal of Criminology 1, no. 2 (February 1, 2007): 137–54, doi:10.1007/s11417-006-9011-y, 146.

[83] Kamm, “Trying Juveniles.”

[84] Joshua Rosenzweig et al., “The 2012 Revision of the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law: (Mostly) Old Wine in New Bottles,” SSRN Scholarly Paper (Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, July 5, 2014),, 1.

[85] Na Jiang, China and International Human Rights (New York: Springer, 2014).

[86] Ibid, 91.

* The beneficial policies provided by the CPL have already been discussed: social enquiry investigations (Article 268); court appearance with eligible adults, including parents, school officials, neighbors, and so on (Article 270); conditional non-prosecution (Articles 271-273), and records sealing (Article 2

[87] Yan Zhang, “‘Round-Table’ Trials Offer Hope,” China Daily, June 16, 2011.

[88]Zhào guólíng and Cháng lěi, “Zhōngguó wèi chéngnián rén shěnpàn zhìdù de fǎ zhǎn,” 98.

[89] Zhao, “Juvenile Criminal Justice System in China,” 106.

[90]Zhào guólíng and Cháng lěi, “Zhōngguó wèi chéngnián rén shěnpàn zhìdù de fǎ zhǎn, 98”

[91] Suspended judgment, which is essentially when a judge forgoes judgment on a case, normally conditional upon good behavior, is similar to conditional non-prosecution, differing only in that the judgment occurs after the trial is completed and that it is the judge, not the procurator, that makes this decision. There is almost no evidence of its widespread use, though the first recorded instance of suspended jugdgement occurred in Shanghai’s Changning District on December 20, 1993.

[92] Mitigation is somewhat more utilized than suspended judgment, though like suspended judgment, it is on a purely discretionary basis. Some courts have been especially generous with mitigation: Haidian District court in Beijing mitigated punishment for approximately 28 percent of the 5200 offenders it processed between September 1987 and September 2007, reporting recidivism rates of only 1 percent, see: Lín wéi, “Wǎnjìn Wèi Chéngnián Rén Fànzuì Tǒngjì Shùjù Yánjiū.”

[93] While nationally there is no standardization of sentencing for “serious adverse acts”, several courts have tried to introduce sentencing standards independently, see Zhāng jūn, Xíngshì fǎlǜ wénjiàn jiědú.

[94] As part of social enquiry investigation, most juvenile courts at least occasionally use psychological evaluations for juvenile defendants. Some of the more progressive Courts, such as the Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court, hire counselors during trial and explicitly instruct judges to consider psychological factors for all youth defendants. See:

Zhāng jūn, Xíngshì fǎlǜ wénjiàn jiědú.

Nánjīng shì zhōngjí rénmín fǎyuàn, Hán liàng, and Xiào tiān, “Rùn Wù Xì Wúshēng ──jì Quánguó ‘yōuxiù Qīngshàonián Wéiquán Gǎng’, Quánguó Shàonián Fǎtíng Xiānjìn Jítǐ, Nánjīng Zhōng Yuàn Shàonián Fǎtíng.”

[95] Community-based alternatives to sentencing usually involve sending youths back to school with a plan for corrections within the community rather than. Again, the Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court is a particularly notable example. Community-based alternatives are often used as part of a conditional non-prosecution or suspended judgment arrangement, though they can also formally replace sentencing in some cases. See: Nánjīng shì zhōngjí rénmín fǎyuàn, “Hóngyáng ‘sān Chuàng’ Jīngshén Zuò Dà Zuò Qiáng Pǐnpái ──nánjīng Fǎyuàn Quèdìng Dàng Qián Hé Jīnhòu Yīduàn Shíqí Shàonián Fǎtíng Gōngzuò Yàodiǎn.”

[96] The Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court repeatedly uses this catchphrase in its announcements, though it does not define what it means. See, for example: Nánjīng shì zhōngjí rénmín fǎyuàn, “Zuìgāo Yuàn Shàonián Fǎtíng Gōngzuò Bàngōngshì Zhǔrèn Jiǎng Míng Yīxíng Dào Gǔlóu Fǎyuàn Diàoyán Shàonián Shěnpàn Gōngzuò.”

[97] Zhao, “Juvenile Criminal Justice System in China,” 107-108.

[98] Leonard Edwards, “Fewer Juvenile Arrests Approved; Migrants Bear Brunt of Charges,” Dui Hua Human Rights Jorunal, accessed November 17, 2015,

[99] Ibid.

[100] Zhōngguó fǎlǜ shèhuì, Zhōngguó fǎlǜ niánjiàn and Zhōngguó fǎlǜ shèhuì, Zhōngguó sīfǎ xíngzhèng niánjiàn, 2008-2013.

* The key example of this was the famous Li Tianyi case in 2013, though multiple other examples abound.

[101] X. Huang, “Re-Legalization or De-Legalization?: Netizens’ Participation in Criminal Justice Practices in China,” British Journal of Criminology 52, no. 4 (July 1, 2012): 724–43, doi:10.1093/bjc/azs021, 724.

[102] Luo Wangshu, “Migrant Life May Lead to Youth Crime,” China Daily, April 21, 2015.

[103] National Bureau of Statistics of China, “Statistical Communiqué of the People’s Republic of China on the 2014 National Economic and Social Development,” Communiqué (Beijing: National Bureau of Statistics of China, February 26, 2015),

[104] Wangshu, “Migrant Life May Lead to Youth Crime.”

[105] The Economist, “Hard Times.”

[106] Kamm, “Trying Juveniles.”

[107] Ibid.

[108] The Economist, “Hard Times.”

[109] Hongwei Zhang, “Strengthening Juvenile Rights or Doing the Opposite: The Legal Mysteries of the Chinese Juvenile Justice System behind the ‘Li Gang-Rape Case,’” 2015,

[110] The Economist, “Hard Times.”

[111] Xu, “Urbanization and Inevitable Migration,” 216

[112] Xu, “Drive-Away Policing and Situational Crime Prevention in China,” 255.

[113] Gaurav Daga, “Reforming China’s Migration Barriers,” The Diplomat, January 16, 2015,

[114] Keliang Zhu et al., “Rural Land Question in China: Analysis and Recommendations Based on a Seventeen-Province Survey,” NYU Journal of International Law & Politics 38 (2005): 761–841, 778.

[115] The Economist, “Ending Apartheid.”

[116] Ibid.

[117] Wall Street Journal, “China’s Hukou Reform Plan Starts to Take Shape.”

[118] Kam Wing Chan and Will Buckingham, “Is China Abolishing the Hukou System?” The China Quarterly 195 (September 2008), doi:10.1017/S0305741008000787.

[119] China Human Rights Defenders, “‘Flowers of the Country’: Mistreated and Abused A Report on Violations of the  Rights of the Child in China,” August 2013,, 6.

[120] Congressional Executive Comission on China (CECC), “2014 Annual Report,” Congressional (Washington D.C.: U.S. House of Representatives), accessed December 12, 2015,, 3.

[121] Ibid, 30-32.

[122] “Ending Apartheid,” The Economist, April 19, 2014,

[123] Growth rates from Xu, “Urbanization and Inevitable Migration.” 211.

[124] Ibid.

[125] Ibid, 212.

[126] The 2014 reforms championed point-based systems for allowing migrants to obtain urban Hukou, removing the central government-imposed limits on Hukou registration in townships and small cities, easing restrictions in medium-sized cities, and suggesting that big cities institute criteria that would allow migrants to obtain urban Hukou. See: “China Focus: Hukou Reforms to Help 100 Mln Chinese.” CCTV News.

[127] Julie Tang, “Introducing Group Homes to China’s Juvenile Justice Experts.”

[128] The Economist, “Uncivil Society,” August 22, 2015.

[129] See note 95.

[130] Hsiao-Hung Pai, “China’s Rural Migrant Workers Deserve More Respect from the City-Dwellers,” The Guardian, August 25, 2012, sec. Opinion,

[131] Jason Gagnon, Theodora Xenogiani, and Chunbing Xing, “Are Migrants Discriminated against in Chinese Urban Labour Markets?” IZA Journal of Labor & Development 3, no. 1 (2014): 17, doi:10.1186/2193-9020-3-17, 3.

[132] Zhào guólíng and Cháng lěi, “Shàonián sīfǎ gǎigé zhōng fǎguān yǔ gōngzhòng rèn zhī zhī bǐjiào.”

[133] Běijīng rìbào, “Cuīyǒngyuán qǐng míngōng yīngxióng chīfàn.”

[134] Ibid.

[135] Pai, “China’s Rural Migrant Workers Deserve More Respect from the City-Dwellers.”

[136] Phil He, “The Politics of Numbers,” in The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Criminology (Routledge, 2010),

[137] The Dui Hua Foundation, “Dui Hua Hosts Third Juvenile Justice Expert Exchange with China,” Dui Hua Human Rights Jorunal, accessed December 17, 2015,

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