An elderly Chinese man who tweaked a young boy's penis in a swimming pool changing room has reportedly been discharged without conviction after the judge accepted he had made a "cultural mistake".

Changfu Ren, 79, had touched the toddler's penis at the Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre in Christchurch last August, while the boy and his father were getting changed, Stuff reports.

Ren had admitted a charge of assault under the Crimes Act, but avoided conviction because his actions would be seen as an acceptable sign of affection in China.

At today's Crown sentencing session at the Christchurch District Court, Judge Alistair Garland accepted the defence's submission that the action was a "cultural mistake".

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A restorative justice meeting had been held and the boy's parents had accepted Ren's mistake, Stuff reported. He had apologised and paid the family $1000, to go toward the boy's education.

The Crown accepted there was no sexual motive behind his actions.

A "laughing" Ren had flicked, then pinched, the young boy's penis while the boy was getting changed with his father.

He had told police the boy had reminded him of his grandson, who lives in China. He did not know the behaviour was an offence in New Zealand, Stuff reported.