Child criminals

Source:Xinhua - Global Times Published: 2013-9-25 21:13:01

Young offenders perform the play Grateful Heart, a play about remorse, at a juvenile detention center in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, on January 17, 2013. Photo: CFP

Young offenders perform the play Grateful Heart, a play about remorse, at a juvenile detention center in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, on January 17, 2013. Photo: CFP

A high school student who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a 9-year-old girl has sparked discussions on juvenile delinquency in China.

The defendant, surnamed Lü, kidnapped the victim in December 2012, molested her, and beat her to death, according to a statement released by the Intermediate People's Court in the city of Xinzhou in North China's Shanxi Province on Saturday.

The court said the crimes committed were so hideous that no mitigation was offered.

The case was just one more in a series of similar cases committed by minors.

Back in February of this year, the son of a famous Chinese singer was detained in Beijing along with four others for their alleged involvement in a gang rape.

Beijing police refused to disclose the name of the suspected minor, but police insiders who requested anonymity said he is the son of Li Shuangjiang, dean of the music department of the People's Liberation Army Academy of Arts. The teenager, Li Tianyi, who has been at the center of public debate, has been put on trial and a verdict is expected on Thursday.

It was not the first time that Li Tianyi has been in trouble with the authorities.

The 17-year-old and another teenager attacked a couple who allegedly blocked their driveway near the entrance of a residential community in Beijing two years ago. He was later sent to a government correctional facility for one year.

In April, a 12-year-old boy killed a 76-year-old woman in Guiping in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The boy, who is currently in custody, confessed to police that he never wanted to kill the woman, and that he had only intended to steal money from her.

Many have expressed concern on the Internet about the psychological condition of China's underage population, wondering what transformed these little "flowers of the motherland" into "carnivorous plants" in a country striving for a harmonious society. These cases are not rare, said Xia Xueluan, a professor with the Department of Sociology at Peking University, adding that juvenile crimes in China, which have decreased in recent years, are still large in number.

From 2002 to 2011, the rate of recidivism of China's juvenile offenders remained at 1 percent to 2 percent, according to a white paper on judicial reform published in October of last year, which also reported drops in juvenile delinquency cases and the proportion of juvenile offenders among the total criminal population.

However, China's juvenile offender number is still high, standing at around 67,000 in 2011, according to the white paper.

"The national average rate of juvenile delinquency may have fallen, but in many parts of the country, youth crimes are still on the rise," Xia said.

Violence and innocence

Mei Zhigang, a sociology professor at Central China Normal University, said that an increasing number of juvenile delinquencies in China are conducted in groups, usually involving violence, sexual abuse and drug trafficking.

He added that many of the young offenders are members of China's "left-behind" migrant children population, which is nearing 100 million.

"Left-behind children" are those who remain in rural homes while their migrant parents go to work in cities far away to earn a living. The children are usually taken care of by their grandparents or other relatives.

According to a special report released by the All-China Women's Federation in May, the problems facing left-behind and migrant children, including lack of family closeness, security, protection and educational opportunities, have been relieved but have not yet been resolved, and new problems keep emerging.

Mei said these problems have resulted in a rise in crimes committed by left-behind minors, many of whom lack education and knowledge of the law.

"Many of them only regard killing others as a crime, thinking that theft, robbery and rape are only simple and forgivable mistakes," he said.

Spoilt kids

One big problem lies in parents spoiling their children, said Xia, who argued that many minors are only children used to getting whatever they want, resulting in a self-willed, rude and unreasonable personality.

"This distorts the values of many youngsters who have no idea about what is false, evil and ugly," he said.

Xia also attributed youth crimes to young people's overexposure to violence and sex in the media.

Teenagers, who are at a critical stage of development, tend to imitate what they see, especially in movies and TV series. Excessive violence and nudity on the screens inevitably cast a negative influence on them.

Xia criticized some schools for paying too much attention to students' academic performance while ignoring their moral education.

In the case of left-behind juvenile offenders, their grandparents tend to care more about whether the children have enough to eat, largely ignoring communication with their grandchildren, which creates psychological problems in minors, said Mei.

Mei added that parents of many left-behind children also lack proper legal awareness, and when their children cross the legal line, parents sometimes interfere and prevent the crime from being solved, which encourages future crime by the children.

Cultural solutions?

Xia urged young people to pay more attention to traditional Chinese culture, which advocates love, harmony and respect in interpersonal relations.

He urged Chinese media to reduce violent and sexual content to keep young people from learning from bad examples.

Xia added that schools should enhance moral and physical education to cultivate well-rounded abilities so students would behave well in society.

As for left-behind children, Mei said it is extremely important to prompt Chinese enterprises to start businesses in the countryside so that farmers can work near where they live, which would decrease the number of left-behind children.

Ouyang Wen, a chief judge at Guangxi Regional High People's Court, said that parents working outside their hometowns should have more frequent contact with their children to learn more about their psychological conditions and prevent them from committing crimes. 

Xinhua - Global Times

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