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Lawmakers, advisers seek tougher penalties for human trafficking

By ZHOU WENTING in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-28 07:24

People with missing family members take part in a charity campaign in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on June 1. [Photo by Long Wei/For China Daily]

Lawmakers and advisers will push for heavier punishment for human trafficking crimes next month at the two sessions-the annual meetings of China's top legislature and political advisory body.

At the annual meeting of the National People's Congress-the country's top legislature-beginning on Saturday in Beijing, some deputies from Shanghai will submit motions calling for the purchasers of women and children to be charged with the same crime as abductors to minimize the occurrence of trafficking cases.

They say the current penalty imposed on the buyers of women and children is far from being a powerful deterrent.

The Criminal Law stipulates that those who abduct and traffic women and children face at least five years behind bars, with penalties rising to 10 year's imprisonment or more, and even the death penalty in especially serious cases.

But the maximum prison sentence for those who purchase abducted women and children is three years.

"Whether they are traffickers or purchasers, essentially they violate the core values of human beings and enslave other people, which is inhumane and unbearable," said Pan Xiangli, an NPC deputy from Shanghai who is planning to file a motion calling for a revision to the Criminal Law.

"It's more than necessary to legally fix the act of buying women and children as a felony and impose heavy criminal penalties on violators. This will be a necessary correction to rectify distorted value positions."

In her motion, Pan, who is also vice-chairwoman of the Shanghai Writers' Association, suggests merging the crimes of abducting women and children and buying them into one offense, and raising the penalties for buyers.

"Human trafficking news reports in recent years have continued to question the conscience of each of us, prompting us to make efforts to end such tragedies," she said.

"Only when the law is fully in line with concepts of modern civilization, such as 'people cannot be enslaved' and 'people's freedom and dignity are inviolable', can it play its due role of punishing the evil and promoting the good, deterring potential lawbreakers, and protecting society."

Fan Yun, another deputy, will suggest the NPC amend the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women to use legal weapons to radically change the abduction situation faced by women in some regions.

Both motions have won the endorsement of more than 30 deputies in the Shanghai delegation, reaching the threshold for submission to the NPC.

Huang Qi and Lyu Hongbin, two Shanghai members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, the country's top political advisory body, will make a joint suggestion at the committee's annual meeting, starting on Friday, aimed at strengthening the fight against the abduction and buying of women and children.

"The existence of buyers is the motivation for abductors, and the two parties are intertwined in actual cases. There's no excuse to give buyers a lesser penalty," said Huang, who is also vice-chairwoman of Shanghai Women's Federation.

"We also suggest that both abductors and buyers face combined punishment for several offenses if they ever rape or injure abducted women and children, or put them under illegal detention."

They also want the managers of grassroots institutions, including schools, villages, neighborhood committees and women's federations, to bear legal responsibility for reporting suspected cases to police.

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