Strictly pun­ish sell­ers and buy­ers of chil­dren


by the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court on Thurs­day, acts that lure chil­dren un­der the age of 6 away from their par­ents or guardians will be de­fined as “in­fant steal­ing”, which may re­sult in 10 years be­hind bars at the min­i­mum, even the death penalty un­der se­ri­ous cir­cum­stances. Daily Sun­shine, a news­pa­per based in Shen­zhen, South China’s Guang­dong prov­ince, com­mented on Fri­day:

The top court’s re­vised in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the crime of “in­fant steal­ing” should be a ma­jor de­ter­rent to hu­man traf­fick­ers and set­tle many dis­putes over what con­sti­tutes “in­fant steal­ing”. The up­date, which will come into ef­fect on Jan 1, came a week af­ter some 36 kid­napped chil­dren were res­cued in a joint op­er­a­tion un­der the com­mand of the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity that cov­ered seven prov­inces and net­ted some 157 sus­pects.

Ad­mit­tedly, kid­napped chil­dren are “lucky” if some­one pays to adopt them, be­cause many of them are other­wise de­lib­er­ately crip­pled and sent out to beg. That ex­plains why some le­gal ex­perts ar­gue that ex­e­cut­ing all kid­nap­pers is not nec­es­sar­ily ef­fi­cient, be­cause that may put the kid­napped in a more danger­ous po­si­tion.

How­ever, that does not make it any less es­sen­tial to im­pose harsher pun­ish­ments on baby steal­ers,

most of whom have been caught more than once. The light pun­ish­ments mean they have not been de­terred from com­mit­ting the same crime again.

And be­fore last year’s re­vi­sions to China’s Crim­i­nal Law, those who did not im­pede ab­ducted women and chil­dren they bought from hu­man traf­fick­ers from go­ing home, mis­treat the kids, or thwart the res­cue of them, could be ex­empt from crim­i­nal penal­ties. Now they face mi­nor pun­ish­ments.

That is a “mi­nor” ju­di­cial ad­vance­ment. It is not enough to de­ter po­ten­tial child buy­ers at bay. Re­frain­ing from mis­treat­ing kid­napped chil­dren or im­ped­ing res­cue ef­forts, in ef­fect, does not jus­tify mi­nor pun­ish­ments for those who “buy” stolen chil­dren. The need to hold them ac­count­able re­mains strik­ing, be­cause buy­ing kid­napped chil­dren also con­sti­tutes a vi­o­la­tion of the Crim­i­nal Law.

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