Reforming China's Juvenile Justice System
Executive Director, Dui Hua
For more than two decades, US-China relations have been marked by strong disagreements over the issue of human rights. Most of these disagreements have centered on the treatment of those detained for the non-violent expression of their political and religious beliefs. Yet there has been little effort at identifying areas in the field of human rights where the two countries can cooperate. One of those areas is juvenile justice.
Over the last several years, the Chinese government has made a priority of reforming its juvenile justice system. Reflecting the breakneck speed of economic and social development, juvenile crime has been soaring, by one estimate doubling every five years. At present Chinese police arrest about 100,000 juveniles (those between the ages of 14 and 18) every year, and a very high percentage are incarcerated in juvenile prisons, work study schools or juvenile detention centers. Once arrested, juveniles have no way of expunging their records, meaning they are marked for life.
China’s Supreme People's Court has taken the lead in sending delegations abroad to study "best practices" in this critically important area. The Dui Hua Foundation, founded by former AMCHAM President John Kamm, hosted the Supreme People's Court in the United States in 2008, and sent a delegation of experts to China in 2010. As a result of the work of the Supreme People's Court a section on juvenile crime was included in China's amended Criminal Procedure Law to take effect on January 1, 2013. Included in the new law are provisions for diversion (called "conditional non-prosecution") and sealing of records. China’s recently released National Human Rights Action Plan states that the country will work to implement these two practices in the 2012-2015 period.
While juvenile justice has been undergoing reform in China, it is also undergoing significant changes in the United States. In 2005 the Supreme Court decided that sentencing juveniles to death is unconstitutional and in late June this year the Court declared unconstitutional sentencing juveniles to life sentence without parole.
In this luncheon talk, Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm will introduce the foundation's next project in the field of juvenile justice: the visit by another Supreme People's Court delegation to California's Bay Area in September 2012. He will describe the goals of the delegation, and encourage AMCHAM members to integrate reforming China's juvenile justice system into their corporate responsibility programs.
John Kamm is an American businessman and human rights campaigner active in China since 1972. He is the founder and chairman of The Dui Hua Foundation. Mr. Kamm was awarded the Department of Commerce’s Best Global Practices Award by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights by President George W. Bush in 2001. In September 2004, Mr. Kamm received a MacArthur Fellowship for “designing and implementing an original approach to freeing prisoners of conscience in China.” Mr. Kamm is the first businessman to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.
Best known for its work in the area of political and religious prisoners, Dui Hua has in recent years focused considerable energy on reforming practices affecting juveniles and women in prison, in both the United States and China. The Dui Hua Foundation is the only independent non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on human rights in China and the United States that enjoys Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.
Mr. Kamm received a B.A. (1972) from Princeton University and an M.A. (1975) from Harvard University. He was the Hong Kong correspondent and representative of the National Council for US-China Trade (1975-1979) and President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (1990). He managed Occidental Chemical Company’s business in China and the Far East (1981-1991).