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AGE OF MAJORITY AND AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY

The age of majority in China is 18 years. The Law on the Protection of Minors (Article 2) defines minors as persons under the age of 18. The age of majority, however, is different from the age of criminal responsibility. According to the Criminal Law of China, the minimum criminal responsibility age is 14 years old. Chapter 2, Article 17 of the Criminal Law defines criminal responsibility age into the following four scenarios: (1) in general, criminal offenders who have reached the age of 16 shall bear criminal responsibility; (2) if he/she has reached the age of 14 but not the age of 16 and commits one of the eight serious offenses (e.g., intentional homicide, intentional hurting of another person so as to cause serious injury or death of the person, or commits rape, robbery, drug trafficking, arson, explosion, and poisoning), the offender shall bear criminal responsibility; (3) an offender who has reached the age of 14 but not the age of 18 shall be given a lighter or mitigated punishment; (4) if an offender is not given criminal punishment because he/she has not reached the age of 16, the head of his/her family or his/her guardian shall be ordered to discipline him/her. When necessary, he/she may be taken in by the government for mandatory rehabilitation. Finally, the Law stipulates that no death penalty could be carried out on young offenders under the age of 18 (Chap. 3, Article 49).

In addition, since minor offenses are regulated by the Public Security Administration Punishment Law (PSAPL), age is also a concern. PSAPL stipulates that youth who violate the law should be dealt with leniency. Specifically, Article 12 stipulates that offenders under 14 years at the time of an offense are immune from punishment, but his/her guardian shall be ordered to strictly discipline him/her; for offenders who attain to the age of 14 but are younger than 18, a lighter or mitigated punishment should be given. Article 21 further stipulates that the punishment of administrative detention shall not be executed when an offender has reached the age of 14 but younger than the age of 16 or he/she has attained the age of 16 but younger than the age of 18 and violated public administration law for the first time. Interrogation of offenders under the age of 16 requires the presence of parents or guardians of the violator (Article 84).

A comparison on responsibility according to different ages between the Public Security Administration Law and the Criminal Law is summarized in Table 8.1.

Table 8.1. A comparison between the PSAPL and the Criminal Law

Public Security Administration Punishment Law as revised in 2012

Criminal Law as revised in 2011 (defines age of criminal responsibility)

Severity of offense Handling party

Minor

Police

Serious

Official criminal justice authorities (e.g., prosecutors and judges)

Younger than 14

Immune from any administrative punishment, but with strict discipline by legal guardian

No criminal responsibility, but with strict discipline by legal guardian or taking in by government when necessary

Age of 14-less than 16

Mitigated administrative punishment

No administrative detention as punishment under all circumstances

Criminal responsibility for commission of eight major types of crime, but with mitigated criminal punishment

No criminal responsibility for commission of other crimes, but with strict discipline by legal guardian or taking in by government when necessary

Age of 16—less than 18

Mitigated administrative punishment

No administrative detention as punishment for first-time violators

Full criminal responsibility, but with mitigated criminal punishment

Age of 18 and above

Administrative punishments

Full criminal responsibility

 
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