Migrant Lives

Children Left Behind: Migration, Education And Crime In China

New data shows high crime rates among children of the millions of rural migrants who moved to Chinese cities - both those brought along with their parents, and the 'left-behind' children.

Just for laughs?
Just for laughs?
Liu Jinsong

BEIJING — The Beijing Higher Court has just released its annual work report for 2013 with regard to court cases involving minors. One of the most eye-catching statistics is that migrant workers' offspring are responsible for an alarmingly high proportion (65.3%) of juvenile delinquency. At the same time another detail, very often overlooked, shows that the same minors are also the ones most likely to have their rights violated and to be the victims of sexual abuse.

The report states that there is very often a problematic family behind each of these “problematic youngsters.” We know, for example, that migrant workers have to strive to survive in the city and have little time to attend to their children. They miss out on providing both the protection and guidance that their offspring need.

Many are these children wind up either staying at home alone or commuting between home and school by themselves where they can become easy targets for criminals. Moreover, the fact that migrant workers rarely attend to their children means they do not get the warmth from home and are more prone to behavior such as skipping classes, fighting, and dropping out of school.

Once lured by criminals, they are mostly likely to become perpetrators themselves.

We understand that inadequate family education and protection are the key reasons why non-Beijing household children are much more vulnerable to becoming criminals. A good family educational environment and atmosphere is a necessary prerequisite for the healthy growth of children.

When we point fingers at the migrant workers’ family education we should also reflect on China’s lack of quality education and social relief.

As the report revealed, migrant workers mostly belong to the vulnerable group of society who bow to realities just in order to be able to feed themselves. Though most of them don’t spend enough energy for their children’s upbringing, the fact that they at least bring their children to the cities is already a hard choice.

Children left behind

The truth is that most migrant workers are forced to leave their children behind in the rural areas — there are as many as 60 million of these children, because of China’s discriminatory education system and obsolete social security system.

Just like their migrant peers in the cities, the “left-behind” children who are deprived of parental love and care are also prone to get into trouble much more easily. According to data, 57.14% of China’s left-behind children suffer from psychological problems while also accounting for about 70% of China’s overall juvenile delinquency.

Education is a nation's system engineering. It requires the participation of families, schools and the broader society. The negative impact resulting from any missing link is to be assumed together by the entire society.

Obviously migrant children miss out on getting sufficient family care, but even more so from the schools and society. Whether they follow their parents into the cities or stay in the countryside they have mostly drifted away from mainstream society.

If we take Beijing as an example, recently the capital's authorities have failed to improve school admission conditions for migrant workers’ offspring, and in some cases have actually made it even more exclusive. Even if they manage to get into the so-called "migrant workers’ children schools," a parallel non-governmental-run system, they are still a marginalized group outside of society’s central framework.

By contrast, the United States might offer a good measure worthy of study. In February, America launched an assistance program aiming to empower young minority men. Named "My Brother’s Keeper," the initiative will receive, over the next five years, $200 million of funding to improve the conditions of the disadvantaged through education and employment, thereby also reducing juvenile crime rates.

Though there exists certain relief programs to vulnerable groups in China, the investment efforts fall far short. Moreover, the government fails to take children’s education issues into account as a priority when formulating broader national policies.

Children represent a society’s future. The more we invest on our education, the more harmony we’ll create for the future of our nation.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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