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Report updated April 2014

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Child population
302,230,200 (UNICEF, 2012)

Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition

Prohibition is still to be achieved in the home, alternative care settings and day care.

There appears to be no confirmation in legislation of a right of parents to inflict corporal punishment on their children and the revised Law on the Protection of Minors 2006 prohibits maltreatment and domestic violence against minors, but there is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment and there is no evidence that legal provisions against violence and abuse are interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment. The near universal acceptance of corporal punishment in childrearing necessitates clarity in law that no kind or degree of corporal punishment can be considered reasonable or lawful.

The Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency 1999 includes several provisions authorising “strict discipline” of children by parents and guardians. The law should make clear that this does not entail a right to inflict corporal punishment. Explicit prohibition should be enacted of all corporal and other degrading and humiliating punishment of all children.

Alternative care settings – Explicit prohibition should be enacted of all corporal punishment in all alternative care settings (foster care, institutions, orphanages, places of safety, emergency care, etc).

Day care – Corporal punishment should be explicitly prohibited in all early childhood care (crèches, family centres, etc) and all day care for older children (day centres, after-school childcare, childminding, etc).

Current legality of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment is lawful in the home. There is limited protection from corporal punishment by parents in some circumstances: Rules in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone 1993 pursuant to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women 1992 explicitly prohibit corporal punishment of the female child (art. 23), and under the Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency 1999, families of children in work-study schools must not impose physical punishment on them (art. 36). But the same Law states that parents or guardians of children who commit serious misbehaviour may be ordered to subject their children to “strict discipline” (arts. 35, 38 and 49).
The Government reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2013 that China’s laws explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children, including in the home.[1] However, provisions against violence and abuse in the revised Law on the Protection of Minors 2006 (further revised in 2012), the Criminal Law 1979, the Constitution 1982 and the Marriage Law (amended 2001) do not prohibit all corporal punishment in childrearing.

Following a number of high profile cases of the deaths of young children as a result of parental abuse and neglect, new child laws are reportedly being drafted to address implementation of existing child laws and to strengthen protection for very young children.[2] We have yet to find out if prohibition of corporal punishment is being proposed in this context.

Alternative care settings

There is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in alternative care settings (information unconfirmed).

Day care

Corporal punishment is prohibited in kindergartens and nurseries in the Law on the Protection of Minors 2006, which states in article 21: “Teaching and administrative staff in schools, kindergartens and nurseries shall respect the personal dignity of the minors, and may not subject them to corporal punishment or corporal punishment in disguised form, or commit any other act that humiliates the personal dignity of the minors.” Article 63 states: “…Where a teaching or administrative staff member of a school, kindergarten or nursery subjects a minor to corporal punishment or corporal punishment in disguised form, or to any other act that humiliates the personal dignity of the minor, the unit where the staff member works or the department at a higher level shall instruct him to rectify; and if the circumstances are serious, he shall be given a sanction according to law.”

There appears to be no explicit prohibition in other early childhood care (crèches, family centres, etc) or in day care for older children (day centres, after-school childcare, childminding, etc).

Schools

Corporal punishment is prohibited in schools. Article 16 of the Compulsory Education Law 1986 states: “It shall be forbidden to inflict physical punishment on students.” According to article 37 of the Teachers’ Law 1994, teachers “imposing corporal punishment on students and refusing to mend their way after being criticised” are subject to administrative sanctions or dismissal and “if the circumstances are serious enough to constitute a crime, shall be investigated for criminal responsibility according to law”. The Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency 1999 prohibits corporal punishment in work-study schools for children found to have perpetrated serious misbehaviour (art. 36): “… Families and schools shall show concern for and take good care of the juveniles who study in work-study schools and respect their personality and dignity, and may not impose physical punishment on, maltreat, or discriminate against them….” The prohibition is confirmed in article 21 of the Law on the Protection of Minors 2006 (see under “Day care”).

Penal institutions

Corporal punishment is explicitly prohibited as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions in a number of laws. Article 248 of the Criminal Law 1979 states: “Whoever from the supervising or administering persons of a supervising or administering organ such as a prison, bridewell or house of detention subjects prisoners or internees to battery or corporal punishment shall, if the circumstances are serious, be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years or criminal detention. If the circumstances are especially serious, the offender shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years and not more than ten years. If deformity or death of another person is caused, the offender shall be decided a crime and given a heavier punishment according to the provisions of Article 234 or Article 232 of this Law….”

Article 14 of the Prison Law states: “The people's police of a prison shall not commit any of the following acts: … (3) to use torture to coerce a confession, or to use corporal punishment , or to maltreat a prisoner; (4) to humiliate the human dignity of a prisoner; (5) to beat or connive at others to beat a prisoner; ….” Article 22 of the People’s Police Law states: “People's policemen may not commit any of the following acts: … (4) to extort confession by torture or subject criminals to corporal punishment or maltreat them; ….” Article 36 of the Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency 1999 also applies (see under “Home”) and prohibition is included in the Regulations on the Behaviour of People’s Police on Duty in Custody-houses 2001.

Article 4 of the Regulations on Detention Facilities 1990 states: “Persons in custody in detention houses must be administered according to law in a scientific and civilized way so that their legitimate rights and interests can be guaranteed. Beating, corporal punishment and ill-treatment of persons in custody are strictly prohibited.” There is a similar provision in the Regulations on Detention Houses 2012 (art. 3): “Detention houses should guarantee the personal safety and legitimate rights and interests of persons in custody according to law. They should neither insult, mete out corporal punishment to and ill-treat persons in custody, nor instigate and connive at others’ insult, corporal punishment or ill-treatment of persons in custody.”

The Law on the Protection of Minors 2006 was revised in 2012 to include a chapter on criminal procedure for juvenile offenders. We are yet to see the full text.

Sentence for crime

Corporal punishment is unlawful as a sentence for crime. It is not a permitted punishment under the Criminal Law 1979.

Prevalence/attitudinal research in the last ten years

In a study of 2,363 parents published in 2010, 43.8% said they had physically punished a child. One third (32.8%) had done so in the past year.[3]

A study of the relationship between gender and physical punishment in China, Colombia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand and the US, which used interviews with around 4,000 mothers, fathers and children aged 7-10, found that in China 48% of girls and 60% of boys had experienced “mild” corporal punishment (spanking, hitting, or slapping with a bare hand; hitting or slapping on the hand, arm, or leg; shaking; or hitting with an object), and 10% of girls and 15% of boys had experienced severe corporal punishment (hitting or slapping the child on the face, head, or ears; beating the child repeatedly with an implement) by someone in their household in the past month. Smaller percentages of parents believed it was necessary to use corporal punishment to bring up their child: for girls, 14% of mothers and 20% of fathers believed it was necessary; for boys, 36% of mothers and 33% of fathers.[4]

A survey reported in 2010 of more than 2,100 primary school children aged 9-12 found that 73% are physically punished by their parents, and this was associated with psychosomatic symptoms such as headache and abdominal pain.[5]

In a survey of more than 100 children aged 6-15 and 126 parents, carried out by the NGO Against Child Abuse, 58% of parents admitted to smacking or caning their children in the previous 12 months. Almost half (47%) of children who had been physically punished said it had hurt them badly and a third thought it had damaged their relationship with their parents.[6]

In a study of 6,592 high school students, 23.2% reported experienced corporal punishment in the past six months.[7]

A 2007 study of 810 parents with children of pre-school age found that 33% had used non-contact corporal punishment on their child.[8]
In a study of 1,622 Chinese parents published in 2006, 57.5% reported using corporal punishment.[9]

In a survey of 484 secondary school students reported in 2005, 16.7% had experienced non-contact corporal punishment, including being forced to run, stand, kneel down, not eat or suffer cold in the winter) from their mothers before the age of 16 and 14.5% had experienced it from their fathers. Over half (53%) had experienced this from a teacher.[10]

In a pilot questionnaire survey in 2004 of 528 students from a college and a technical secondary school in Hebie province, 57.6% of students reported having received corporal punishment on at least one occasion. A similar number (53.4%) reported receiving “non-contact” corporal punishment by teachers when aged below 16 years, including running, standing, kneeling etc; 16.1% reported  hitting/kicking/pushing very hard with open hands or another part of the body; 10.2% reported beating with an object; and 0.2% reported being locked in a cupboard or tied with a rope. No significant correlation was found between corporal punishment and residence (rural or non-rural), parental education or number of children in the family.[11]

A retrospective survey of nearly 1,000 university students in China and England, carried out between 2001 and 2004, looked at their experiences of parental discipline and their attitudes towards it. Of the Chinese students, 60% of boys and 50% of girls reported being hit by their parents as children; beating with a stick, rod or branch was reported by 37% of boys and 36% of girls. Fathers were more likely to be the parent using physical punishment than mothers. Of those who had been physically punished, 42% of boys and 41% of girls said they were punished for being “disobedient”, 33% of boys and 25% of girls for being “naughty”, 25% of boys and 18% of girls for having poor results at school, and 25% of boys and 45% of girls for being “wilful”.[12]

Recommendations by human rights treaty bodies

Committee on the Rights of the Child

“The Committee, while welcoming the State party’s efforts to implement the Committee’s concluding observations of 2005 on its second periodic report (CRC/C/CHN/CO/2), notes with regret that some of the recommendations contained therein have not been fully addressed.
“Recalling its previous recommendations, the Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary measures to address those recommendations that have not been implemented or not sufficiently implemented, and urges it to: ...

c) explicitly prohibit by law corporal punishment in the family, schools, institutions and all other settings, including penal institutions.”
(29 October 2013, CRC/C/CHN/CO/3-4, Concluding observations on third/fourth report, paras. 6 and 7)


“The Committee is concerned that in mainland China the existing regulations banning corporal punishment in schools are unevenly implemented. It is also concerned that corporal punishment in the home is not banned and continues to be socially acceptable.

“The Committee is concerned that corporal punishment within the family is not prohibited by law and continues to be practised in the home in the Hong Kong and Macau SARs.

“The Committee urges the State party, in all areas under its jurisdiction:

  1. to explicitly prohibit by law corporal punishment in the family, schools, institutions and all other settings, including penal institutions;
  2. to expand public education and awareness-raising campaigns with the involvement of children on alternative non-violent forms of discipline in order to change public attitudes about corporal punishment.”

(24 November 2005, Concluding observations on second report on China (including Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions), CRC/C/CHN/CO/2, paras. 46, 47 and 48)

Universal Periodic Review

China was examined in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2009 (session 4). No recommendations were made specifically concerning corporal punishment of children. However, the following recommendations were made and were accepted by the Government:[13]

“Continue its efforts: for the promotion of human rights (Oman); in legal and judicial reforms, economic development and other areas towards promoting a harmonious society, democracy, the rule of law and human rights (Viet Nam);

“Continue enhancing the quality of life of its people through the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and pursuant to international standards (Nicaragua);

“Attach more importance to the protection of rights of the child through national plans for economic and social development (Qatar)”

Examination in the second cycle took place in 2013 (session 17). No specific recommendations on corporal punishment were made. However, the following recommendations relevant to prohibition of corporal punishment were made and were accepted by the Government:[14]

“Continue its ongoing review of national laws to ensure that they are in line with its international human rights law obligations (Turkmenistan);
“Continue to give consideration to the views of treaty bodies and other mechanisms (Kenya);

“Continue to protect the rights of children (Mauritius);

“Continue its effort to promote and protect the rights of children including further action against the abduction, maltreatment and abandonment of children (Ethiopia)”

Notes:
1. [2013], CRC/C/CHN/Q/3-4/Add.1 Unedited Version, Reply to list of issues, Q15
2. Reported in South China Morning Post, 21 January 2014
3. Chan, K. L. (2010), “Co-occurrence of intimate partner violence and child abuse in Hong Kong Chinese families”, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, (e-publication ahead of print), 1-21, cited in UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (2012), Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences: A Systematic Review of Research, Bangkok: UNICEF
4. Lansford, J. et al (2010), “Corporal Punishment of Children in Nine Countries as a Function of Child Gender and Parent Gender”, International Journal of Pediatrics
5. Hesketh, T. et al (2010), “Stress and psychosomatic symptoms in Chinese school children: cross-sectional survey”, Archives of Disease in Childhood, 95(2), 136-140
6. Reported in Earth Times, 4 May 2010
7. Leung, P. W. S. et al (2008), “Prevalence and determinants of child maltreatment among high school students in Southern China: A large school based survey”, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 2(27), 1-8, cited in UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (2012), Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences: A Systematic Review of Research, Bangkok: UNICEF
8. Wang, F. Y. et al (2007), “The Prevalence of Physical Maltreatment by Parents in 810 Kindergarten Children”, Chinese Journal of School Health, 28(11): 987-990 [in Chinese], cited in UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (2012), Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences: A Systematic Review of Research, Bangkok: UNICEF
9. Tang, C. S. K. (2006), “Corporal punishment and physical maltreatment against children: A community study on Chinese parents in Hong Kong”, Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 893-907, cited in UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (2012), Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences: A Systematic Review of Research, Bangkok: UNICEF
10. Chen, J. Q. & Liao, W. (2005), “Childhood Non-contact Corporal Punishment Revealed in the Questionnaire Survey of Technical Secondary School Students”, Chinese Mental Health Journal, 19(4): 243-246  [in Chinese], cited in UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (2012), Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences: A Systematic Review of Research, Bangkok: UNICEF
11. Jing-qi, C. et al (2006), “A retrospective survey of childhood corporal punishment by school teachers on students”, Chinese Journal of Paediatrics, 44(1), 26-30
12. Hester, M. et al (2009), “Girls’ and boys’ experiences and perceptions of parental discipline and punishment while growing up in China and England”, Child Abuse Review, 18, 401-413
13. 5 October 2009, A/HRC/11/25, Report of the working group, paras. 114(2), 114(3) and 114(13)
14. 4 December 2013, A/HRC/25/5, Report of the working group, paras. 186(54), 186(64), 186(77) and 186(80)

This analysis has been compiled from information from governmental and non-governmental sources, including reports on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every effort is made to maintain its accuracy. Please send us updating information and details of sources for missing information: info@endcorporalpunishment.org.

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