Proposal requires bars to ban minors

Updated: 2013-09-09 00:11

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily)

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Shanghai measure comes after three-year increase in crimes by underage patrons

Bars were included in venues that should not serve customers under the age of 18 in the draft amendment of the Shanghai Minors Protection Regulation.

This is the first time on the Chinese mainland that bars have been included.

The draft, which requires bar managers to place a sign barring minors at the entrance, will be submitted to the Standing Committee of the Shanghai People's Congress for discussion in September.

The draft follows the high-profile case of Li Tianyi, the 17-year-old son of two well-known military singers, who was charged with taking part in the gang-rape of a woman along with another four suspects, three of whom were underage, after drinking in a bar in Beijing's Haidian district on Feb 17.

Beijing Haidian District People's Court heard the case on Aug 28 and 29 but has not announced a verdict.

Legal experts said there should be no opposition to the rule since there is already a ban on selling alcohol to minors, which requires sellers to check buyers' identity cards.

That ban, which came into effect in 2006, said violators could be fined up to 2,000 yuan ($327).

"Moreover, the recreational activities in bars often cater to adults, which is unsuitable for those under 18," said Yi Shenghua, director of criminal cases at the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing.

Legal officials said several cases have been investigated in Shanghai's Huangpu, Jing'an and Xuhui districts in the past two years, especially concerning bars that employed teenagers to socialize with customers of the opposite sex.

"Prostitution might not necessarily happen in the bars, but the youngsters were urged to drink, which might touch off subsequent problems, even crimes," said Zhu Miao, an official with the juvenile court of the Shanghai High People's Court.

Data from Shanghai People's Procuratorate showed criminal cases committed by minors at entertainment venues saw consecutive increases in the past three years. The number of cases rose from 46 in 2010 to 80 last year.

Of these cases, 27 included fighting, intentional injury, robbery, and rape.

"There are explicit stipulations that karaoke bars, Internet bars and game centers cannot open their doors to minors, and managers of such places should be held accountable for permitting the admission of teenagers," said Lin Zhongming, a spokesman for Shanghai People's Procuratorate.

But Jin Defeng, deputy director of the Shanghai Bar Profession Association, said bars will still have difficulty confirming the ages of young customers even by checking their ID cards.

"Some bars have voluntarily placed a sign at the doorway to discourage teenagers but some minors borrow ID cards from older friends," Jin said.

Most people do not receive ID cards until they are 16.

"Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether the person is the one in the photo on the ID card or not. Some people can recite the 18-digit ID number from memory if we doubt they are not the holders," said a manager of a bar in Changning district.

Jin said bar owners would not be willing to take the risk. "A bar earns around 50 yuan per head but will be fined thousands of yuan or even have its license revoked if it accommodates minors. I don't think they'll be willing to take the risk," Jin said.

But legal experts, who believed some entertainment venues knowingly allow minors to enter, suggested a more stringent check of ID cards, as hotels often do.

Families, schools and communities should also give more education to teenagers to keep away from these venues, lawyers said.