The age of sexual consent is the minimum age set by law at which a person can decide on his or her own to have sexual intercourse. Just like in any other part of the world, an act of sexual intercourse that violates the age of sexual consent can be considered a crime in China.
The age of sexual consent is not explicitly defined in mainland China but, rather, in Article 236 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China (amended in 2020), which states that “whoever engaged in [a] lewd act with a young girl under the age of fourteen shall be punished with a heavier penalty.” Because of this, the de facto and de jure age of consent in China is 14.
According to Article 236(2) of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, if the object of the sexual act is a young girl under the age of 14 (whether she consented or not), the lucid act is punishable by a heavy penalty of imprisonment for a term of not less than three years but not more than 10 years, with the maximum penalty being the death penalty.
In 2002, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued the “Supplementary Provisions on the Implementation of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China” to define the crime of sexual assault in Article 236 of the Criminal Law. The crime of engaging in sexual acts with young girls was incorporated into the crime of sexual assault.
If a person who has reached the age of 14 but who is under the age of 16 occasionally has sexual relations with a young girl (the two youngsters clause) and the circumstances are minor and do not cause serious consequences, it is not considered a crime.
In Hong Kong, under the Crimes Ordinance, Cap. 200, any man who has lucid acts with a girl under the age of 16 is considered to have committed a crime and is liable to imprisonment for five years. The age of majority for women in Hong Kong is the same as that for men, which is 18.
Most laws around the world set the minimum age for performing legal acts at around 16 years old. In Asia, for example, it is 18 years old in South Korea, 13 years old in Japan (but de facto raised to 18 years old by other laws and local ordinances), 14 years old in mainland China and Macau, and 16 years old in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the U.S., most states have set the age between 16 and 18 depending on different legal provisions.
In many countries and regions, a person who engages in sexual activity with a person under this age can be considered a criminal, regardless of whether the partner agreed, and is subject to criminal liability. Some jurisdictions do not punish or reduce the penalty for sexual intercourse when both parties are under or close to this age. This is also known as the “Romeo and Juliet law.”
On January 1, 2021, the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China came into force.
Article 1047: The age of marriage shall not be earlier than twenty-two years for men and twenty years for women.