Beijing prosecutors and judicial professionals have urged authorities to speed up the sealing of young offenders' criminal records to allow them a better chance to succeed in life.
Under the revised Criminal Procedure Law, which took effect in January 2013, the record of crimes committed by those aged under 18 whose sentences are less than five years should be sealed to protect them in their future studies and help them continue their lives in a positive way.
Since then, the capital's top procuratorate has encouraged other institutions such as the courts and human resource authorities to make the procedure a priority.
But young offenders' files "still face exposure", said Yue Huiqing, director of the juvenile crime department at the procuratorate.
Any criminal record is a major obstacle to career prospects and studies in the country, as most jobs and examinations require a certificate declaring that an applicant has no convictions, Yue said.
Police officers responsible for household registration in public security bureaus provide the certificates but the authorities "have not yet reached any agreement with us" over the sealing of the records, Yue said.
Yue cited a case in which a young man was stopped by customs officers as he was about to go overseas because his criminal file showed up on the police database.
Apart from such problems with travel and study, people with criminal records cannot apply for China's civil service examinations or join the military. "That means these youths aren't fully protected under the law," she said.
Yue's department has drafted detailed procedures regarding the sealing of minors' criminal files and she hopes the police can push for the article's enforcement, she said.
Unlike procuratorates and courts, there is no special department in the public security bureau that deals with juvenile crimes.
"The police might not realize the importance of sealing young offenders' files, let alone providing them with better protection," Yue said.
By the end of 2012, every prosecuting authority in Beijing had established a juvenile department to handle crimes by young offenders, but so far only the police in Haidian district have begun to address the issue, she said.
Wang Qi, a police officer from Haidian, said sealing a minor's criminal record in the online database is not difficult, but should be carried out in line with the requirements of higher authorities.
To help remedy the problem, Chi Qiang, the chief procurator in Beijing, last year proposed that police officers pay attention to the agreement to seal the files of young offenders.
"The people's congress of Beijing has put the proposal on the agenda and turned to prosecutors to develop studies," Yue said, adding that the legislature's move was very encouraging.
Yue also wrote letters to educational authorities, asking them to continue providing study opportunities for young offenders.
Yao Jianlong, a professor of criminal justice at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that the public security bureau is a core department for handling juvenile cases, "but most of the time, it cannot play its key role".
In Japan, more than 10,000 police officers are dedicated to tackling cases that involve minors, including finding missing children and ensuring campus security, Yao said, adding that such a police team is rare in China.
Lu Yulan, head of a social work association in Beijing, said, "A criminal record has a huge impact on a young person's future, and what we want is to reduce any negative effect."