BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- Chinese lawmakers on Friday demanded harsher legislation and more active government intervention to protect minors, especially rural children left behind by migrant worker parents.
Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) discussed a report submitted by an inspection panel of the NPC Standing Committee about the protection of minors at the ongoing bi-monthly legislative session.
Cong Bin, an NPC Standing Committee member, said he was impressed by the report and shocked at the situation of rural children.
As part of the country's urbanization drive, many rural residents have left their hometowns to work in cities. Without proper residence permits and due to financial problems, they are not able to bring their children with them and must leave them behind in the care of grandparents or other relatives.
The absence of parents has been one of the reasons for an increasing number of sexual assaults, abuse and abduction cases involving minors in rural areas, Cong said.
The report, tabled at the session on Monday, quoted prosecutors in central China's Henan Province as saying that more than 60 percent of attacks on juveniles in the province target "left-behind" children in the countryside and homeless children in cities.
Cong suggested that the country create preferential policies to attract more rural residents back to their hometowns as well as relocate labor-intensive industries to populous but less developed regions.
More government spending is needed in improving infrastructure and introducing good teachers to rural schools, he said, adding that more money should go to village schools so that children do not need to walk long distances to schools in bigger villages or townships.
Pang Lijuan, another NPC Standing Committee member, called for more education for parents.p "Parents should be more aware of their responsibilities. In quite a few cases, the accidental death of children was due not only to negligence by parents but also abuse," she said.
About 55,000 minors die in accidents each year, with drowning and traffic accidents the biggest causes, according to the report.
The report also pointed out that intervention from the community and authorities in child abuse and domestic violence cases has been far from effective or adequate.
Jia Chunmei, a prosecutor from north China's Hebei Province and NPC deputy, suggested that the Criminal Law be further revised to add the crime of child abuse.
"The crime of abuse in the current Criminal Law only covers the abuse of family members. If a person abuses a child who is not related to him or her -- for instance, a school or nursery teacher abusing a student -- he or she might not be subject to criminal penalty," said Jia, who was invited to observe the discussion.
Jia also called for a revision to the law to remove language about the crime of having sex with prostitutes younger than age 14.
The current Criminal Law says that having sex with girls below age 14, whether by force or not, is considered rape, and sentences range from three years in prison to death.
But the law also says that a person who has sex with prostitutes below age 14 will be sentenced to at least five years in prison.
"There is no need to define such a crime. Having sex with minors should be considered rape, no matter who she is and what she does," Jia said.
In practice, the conflicting provisions have helped some offenders escape harsher punishment, as they have argued that the underage girl has consented and is paid in order to avoid rape charges, she said.