Murder of 10-year-old by a teenager sparks debate if he should be tried as adult

A murder of a 10-year-old girl by a 13-year-old boy in China has raised questions over the country’s criminal responsibility laws after it was announced the suspect cannot be charged.

Under China’s Criminal Law, those aged 14 to 18 can be held criminally liable if they have committed a serious offense, such as homicide, rape, drug trafficking, robbery or arson. Those over 18 can be charged criminally for any kind of offense.

But those under 14 can’t be charged and punished as criminals. They are either returned to their parents to be disciplined or sent to a correctional facility for young offenders.

The girl’s body was found on October 20, hours after her older brother dropped her off at a painting class.

When the girl failed to return home, her parents went out to look for her. They found her body near their home and alerted police, who that night detained a 13-year-old boy. Police said the boy confessed to the killing following an interrogation.

The girl’s father said the boy had brought his daughter to his home, sexually assaulted her and stabbed her to death. He then disposed of the body in a wooded area.

Police said the boy wouldn’t be charged because he is under 14 years old and therefore hadn’t reached the age of legal responsibility. Legal laws in China avoid sentencing a child as an adult, because he doesn’t have the maturity to appreciate the wrongfulness of what he has done.

The boy was instead sent to a juvenile rehabilitation center for three years.

The case has triggered a debate and wide protests asking for change in laws.

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