This report is part of CRIN's access to justice for children project, looking at the status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in national law, the status of children involved in legal proceedings, the legal means to challenge violations of children’s rights and the practical considerations involved in challenging violations.
China ratified the CRC in March 1992, with a reservation to the right to life recognised under Article 6 of the Convention. The status of international treaties in domestic law is unclear as no provisions refer to this matter. Therefore, the CRC does not officially prevail over national law but rather coexists with it. Children do not have legal standing until they reach the age of 18, unless they are over 16 years of age and support themselves through their own income, so they must usually be represented by their parents. Children’s representatives can challenge violations of the child’s rights in civil, criminal and administrative courts and collective litigation is possible. Legal aid is theoretically available to all children whose rights have been violated; however it appears that in practice the legal aid system is ineffective. Furthermore, special provisions are in place to protect children witnesses. China has been criticised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child for the frequent arbitrary detention of children and their sentencing to labour camps, as well as the lack of a proper legal framework to help children victims of sexual exploitation.