The contemporary juvenile justice system is believed to begin with the establishment of the first juvenile tribunal in Changning District, Shanghai, in November 1984 (Yao 2001). Between 1949 and 1983, all special tribunals for juveniles and youth were abolished. Supported by the supreme court, these juvenile and youth courts spread rapidly in China. Since then, the concept of juvenile delinquency was reintroduced and a subsystem of juvenile justice has emerged.

Currently, two types of cases are handled by the juvenile tribunals, protection cases for children’s welfare or property rights and criminal cases involving juvenile offenders between the ages of 14 and 18 years. Unlike its Western counterparts, especially the USA, where juvenile courts conduct civil proceedings exclusively designed for juveniles, Chinese juvenile court proceedings are considered largely as criminal proceedings (Zhao et al. 2014). Although the juvenile proceedings demonstrate the protection of the juvenile and focus on their interests, the divergence between the juvenile justice proceedings and the adult criminal justice proceedings is not remarkable. The subsystem of juvenile justice can be summarized as follows: round-table trial, social enquiry investigation, appearance with eligible adults, conditional non-prosecution, suspended judgment, mitigation and standardization of penalties, psychological correction and treatment, various forms of relief and education, and sealed criminal records for minors. All these might be categorized into different stages of the juvenile justice proceedings and involve various parties in the system, including the police, the prosecutors, the judges, and the correctional staff. There is no national unifying system and many of these are experiments that are local initiatives.

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