China lowers age of criminal responsibility to 12 after high-profile offences committed by children

China Flag Court - AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko
China has lowered the age of criminal liability for murder and some other serious crimes from 14 to 12 years after some high-profile killings by children.
The change means that children between the ages of 12 and 14 who commit crimes such as willful murder or willful harm resulting in death or serious disability will now be held criminally accountable. Previously, they were exempt from criminal punishment, but were given an explanation about the correctional facility.
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Currently, the age of criminal liability in China is 16 years. However, teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16 can be charged and punished as criminals for serious crimes such as willful murder, rape and robbery.
The question of whether the criminal responsibility age should be reduced came to the fore after a 13-year-old boy confessed to police last year that he had killed a 10-year-old girl.
State media reported that the girl was unable to return home from a painting class on a Sunday afternoon. The girl's father said the boy tricked the girl into entering his house, sexually assaulted her, stabbed her to death, and then dumped her body on the side of the road.
After the murder in Dalian City, northeast China, the boy was sent to a youth rehabilitation center for three years. There was public outrage over what was viewed as his lenient treatment.
In another case, a 13-year-old boy was reportedly beaten to death by six youths, including one under 14, in Shaanxi province in August. The youngest was placed under the supervision of a guardian, while the other five were arrested on suspicion of willful harm resulting in death.
The authorities have already announced that they will increase the number of youth cases handled by prosecutors.
Last year, the number of law enforcement actions against young people rose by 5 percent compared to the previous year. The most common crimes were theft, robbery, willful harm, affray, disturbance, and rape. This emerges from a white paper published by the Supreme People's Prosecutor in June.

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