Juvenile delinquency in spotlight after release of 12-year-old boy who killed mother

Photo: The Beijing News

A 12-year-old boy who stabbed his mother to death in revenge of attack at home in Central China's Hunan Province has been released without punishment by police just four days after his detention, triggering public discussion over the country's handling of juvenile crime cases.

The boy, only identified as Wu, is a sixth grader. He killed his mother, surnamed Chen, with a kitchen knife after she used a belt to beat him after she found him smoking cigarettes on the evening of December 2, according to The Beijing News.

Instead of reporting the incident to the police, Wu used his dead mother's phone to message his teachers, saying that he would be absent from class the next day as he had caught a cold, the newspaper reported.

Chen was found by her father in her bedroom in a pool of blood with over 20 stab wounds on December 3, said The Beijing News.

When police arrived at the scene, Wu lied to them that his mother took her own life. He then retracted his story after questioning by the police, and admitted killing her in retaliation for the punishment he received for smoking, noted the newspaper.

After three days in police custody, Wu was released without charges because he was younger than 14, the minimum statutory age for criminal responsibility in China, according to the local media outlets.

"He is too young for us to do anything about him," said an officer.

However, when Wu's family attempted to send him back to school, his classmates' parents expressed fierce opposition, saying that they feared Wu's return would endanger their children, reported The Beijing News.

According to the local media outlets, Wu has shown no signs of remorse.

When asked by his uncle whether he thought it was wrong to kill his mother, Wu said "I killed my mother, not someone else."

Wu has left home under pressure and is staying at a hostel, where he is monitored by his father and grandmother, the police, and education authorities, according to rednet.cn, a local media outlet.

Rednet also reported that psychological counseling and classes on law and other academic subjects are available to him. Two teachers from the school the boy attended have been appointed to tutor him at the hostel.

The case has captured widespread attention, prompting state media like the Xinhua News Agency and People's Daily to make comments.

"It is irresponsible to release Wu into society just several days after he brutally killed his mother," said the People's Daily. "His right to education should be protected, but he must pay for his wrongdoings."

Netizens also expressed anger on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

"I think Wu should be jailed for one to two years, so that he could realize the severity of committing crimes," wrote one user.

"It is understandable that Wu's classmates' parents protested his return. He's a murderer, and we cannot imagine what he would do once angered by others in future," wrote another.

Legal loopholes

Even though the number of crimes committed by schoolchildren has fallen in China in recent years, violence by minors - not all of it considered criminal under the country's current legal system - is still seen as a serious problem, Caixin reported.

In December last year, a 13-year-old boy in Dazhou, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, was arrested by the police after he allegedly decapitated his mother and posted a video of the murder online.

In June 2015, an 11-year-old girl was attacked and severely beaten by a group of seven students in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. All of the assailants were under 14. After being summoned to the police station, they were only asked to apologize to the victim.

Professor Pi Yijun, an expert in juvenile delinquency at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said that the process of dealing with serious offenders aged under 14 has long been a grey area.

"Under Chinese law, I would suggest minors like Wu should be sent for re-education under custody," said Pi. "But there are no systems and few institutions in small cities."

"That's why in many cases, the police can do nothing but to free them."

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