Guide issued to help prosecutors deal with cases involving minors
A person who demands nude photos or pressures minors to have sex over the internet can be charged with child molestation, even if there is no physical contact, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Sunday.
The SPP highlighted three cases of sexual assault or abuse of minors - under age 18 - in China to better guide prosecutors nationwide in properly handling such cases, from gathering facts to recommending sentences.
In one case, the suspect, surnamed Luo, 25, used verbal threats to get his online friend, a 13-year-old girl, to send him nude photos last year.
After the girl sent the photos over the internet, he asked her to meet him in a hotel for sex and said that if she didn't comply he would publish the photos online. The girl reported the threat to the police and the man was detained on his way to the hotel.
Luo was convicted of the crime of attempted child molestation and sentenced to one year in prison by a district court in August last year.
The court said that because Luo's attempt had failed, no child molestation had occurred.
The SPP did not release the court's name or say where the case was tried.
But it said the district procuratorate protested to the intermediate people's court that the judgment in the first trial was based on incorrect fact finding, which led to a lighter sentence.
Luo should have been treated as if he had completed the crime, prosecutors argued. The court agreed and amended the sentence to two years in prison.
Zheng Xinjian, director of juvenile prosecutions for the SPP, said the case is a new type of crime that has emerged with the development of the internet. The perpetrator often argues that because there was no touching of the victim's body, there was no crime.
However, he said, in such cases, the suspect did, in fact, commit molestation by seriously damaging the mental health of the minor, which should be considered a crime.
When a perpetrator pressures a child into taking nude photos or videos for purposes of sexual stimulation, it seriously violates the child's personal dignity and mental health and is therefore a crime, Zheng said.
The criminal law does not list specific details of what constitutes molesting a child, so the case should be judged according to the circumstances, and this case should set an example for handling similar cases, he added.
In another case released by the SPP, the suspect, surnamed Qi, was the head teacher at a county elementary school.
From 2011 to 2012, he raped two girls under age 12 several times in the school office, classroom and bathroom. The 49-year-old also molested seven other female students.
The provincial high court concluded that Qi committed rape and child molestation and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
The SPP appealed the judgment to the Supreme People's Court last year, saying that the penalty was too light. In July, in its retrial, the top court handed down a life sentence.
Zheng said it is difficult to obtain evidence in the crime of sexual assault, especially in cases involving minors, which usually lack objective and direct evidence and in which the accused often deny guilt.
In Qi's case, the victims' statements were the only direct evidence, and their classmates' testimony provided indirect evidence.
In such situations, the top procuratorate and top court both examine the criminal facts. Based on experience and common sense, the statements of victims who are minors are reasonable and logical, Zheng said.
"In fact-finding for cases involving minors, the criteria should be different from adult cases," he said.
The SPP recently sent a proposal to the Ministry of Education about improving mechanisms for preventing sexual assaults against schoolchildren in primary and secondary schools, and in kindergartens.
The ministry said in a guideline issued on Friday that any teacher caught abusing, molesting or sexually harassing students will be banned from teaching at any school and their teaching credentials, academic titles and honors will be revoked.