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Sex offenders, bullying and number plates: China's parliament proposals

Beiyi Seow and Poornima Weerasekara
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Every year, dozens of proposals are made to address major social woes when the parliament meets

Every year, dozens of proposals are made to address major social woes when the parliament meets (AFP Photo/NICOLAS ASFOURI)

Beijing (AFP) - As delegates gather in Beijing for the annual session of China's rubber-stamp parliament, some of them have put forward proposals for laws relating to a wide range of everyday matters.

The National People's Congress (NPC) opened on Friday after a two-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, dozens of proposals are made to address major social woes when the parliament meets. Only a handful, however, are turned into laws.

Here are some of this year's proposals:

- Sex offenders -

In many cases of sexual assault on minors, suspects are known to their victims -- prompting representative Liu Xiya to propose a database for those with such criminal records.

In her proposal she suggests a nationwide listing and a rule forbidding offenders to work with children, reported state newspaper People's Daily.

The issue of child sex abuse has become a hotly discussed topic online in recent months, after a prominent lawyer came under investigation for allegedly assaulting his teenage foster daughter.

- Bullying rules -

A proposal by delegate Li Yalan to hold schools, teachers and parents responsible for school bullying has become a surprise hit on Chinese social media, garnering millions of comments.

Videos of violent bullying incidents that frequently surface on social media, and incidents of suicide linked to school bullying that make occasional headlines have highlighted a need for stricter laws to curb bullying, Li said in the proposal.

At present there is no law or regulation stipulating how those involved in such incidents should be punished.

- Scrapping childbirth penalties -

With births in China expected to decline further, the country could scrap punishments for having three or more children, said representative Huang Xihua.

The number of births fell for a third consecutive year in 2019, even though China relaxed its strict one-child policy in 2016 to allow people to have two children.

Apart from calling off penalties, Huang proposed subsidising childcare costs and strengthening labour protection for female employees during pregnancy, said the state-run Beijing News.

- Banning animal cruelty -

Another delegate has called for legislation against animal cruelty, saying existing laws are insufficient.

Gao Zicheng, head of the Beijing Lawyers Association, suggested including clearer provisions against animal cruelty and related behaviours in the revision of an existing law.

There are already provincial laws against animal mistreatment, such as Beijing's regulations that animal breeders should not abuse the animals they raise, and rules in the central province of Hubei that animal suffering should be reduced as much as possible, he said.

- Easing car restrictions -

After China's car sales declined 42 percent in the first quarter due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Zeng Qinghong -- chairman of domestic automaker GAC Group and an NPC delegate -- has suggested scrapping restrictions on vehicle purchases to encourage more people to buy cars.

In major Chinese cities, prospective car buyers must win a number plate lottery and can wait for years to get a chance to even enter the lottery.

Several cities in northern China have also limited the number of days per week a vehicle can hit the road to reduce air pollution.

- Lowering criminal age -

A series of high-profile murders committed by minors -- including a 12-year-old who hacked his mother to death in December -- has prompted a proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years.

Under China's criminal law, children under 14 can't be held legally responsible for their actions. Juvenile offenders under that age are sent to foster homes or rehabilitation centers.

There are no official figures on juvenile crime rates in China but a white paper by a Beijing court last year said the "frequency and severity of crimes" committed by minors under 14 have increased over the past decade.

This year several NPC delegates have refiled a proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 12 –- after a similar proposal last year fell by the wayside.