China’s Shanxi revises minor protection regulations after severe school bullying case
Published: Sep 27, 2023 05:00 PM
Law Photo:VCG

Law Photo:VCG

China's Shanxi Province revised minor protection regulations identifying school principals as the primary person liable for student safety, after a severe school bullying case involving two 9-year-old primary school kids beating, humiliating and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old for almost a year sparked outrage among Chinese society. The case also sparked heated discussions on whether or not to exert criminal punishment on underaged minors. 

The Shanxi government held a meeting recently to revise its minor protection regulations, saying school principal is the primary person liable for protecting underaged students, and clarified specific terms on preventing school bullying and sexual assaulting. The new regulations will take effect on January 1, 2024, the government announced on Tuesday.

This followed a severe campus bullying case that outraged the Chinese public. In Dacheng bilingual school in Shanxi's Datong, two 9-year-old primary school students, surnamed Zhao and Jin, both male, had been bullying 10-year-old Sun, also male who shared dormitory with the two, for almost a year and a half.

The bullying was only uncovered when Sun's grandmother discovered the minor was contemplating suicide. According to online posts, Sun's parents accused the two of not only beating and verbally abusing Sun, but also forcing Sun to lick their genitals, drink urine, and raping the 10-year-old.

Sun's parents also allegedly accused the teacher of dereliction of duty. On September 16, after learning that his son had been subjected to the extreme bullying, Sun's father wrote the incident based on his son's account and informed the school. The following day, arranged by the school, the parents of the three students met at the school. During the meeting, Zhao and Jin's parents wrote apology statements and expressed their willingness to bear the related examination expenses, according to media reports. 

After the incident sparked heated online discussion, a joint work group intervened to conduct investigation. The work group published the result on Tuesday and confirmed the bullying, and considering the two abusers are underaged, the public security bureau criticized Zhao and Jin, requesting both to undergo psychological counseling and behavioral correction, in accordance with the law on prevention of juvenile delinquency.

Zhao and Jin's parents were also criticized and asked to apologize to Sun and his guardians.

The principal of the school was removed from the post, and the deputy principal and teachers of the students' class were fired. The school was asked to scale down enrollment for new school year.

Shanxi's education authority held a meeting recently, which stressed prevention of campus bullying and required campus patrolling during the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays.

The case has sparked heated discussion online with many netizens calling for appropriate criminal punishment for minors based on their behavior. 

A user on Sina Weibo said that such bullying behavior should be recorded in the students' profile to warn its future school and employers; also, their guardians should shoulder certain criminal responsibility for poor education.

Media outlet published a commentary on Tuesday, saying age should not be a shield or a talisman for criminal offenses. Taking this case as an example, are the "reprimand, psychological counseling, and behavioral correction" as "punishments" fair and reasonable? Considering the age factor of the parties involved, if criminal punishment cannot be imposed, can we consider holding the perpetrators and their guardians accountable for civil legal responsibilities, asked

Chen Bi, a professor from the China University of Political Science and Law, defended the punishment of giving those abusers admonitions and psychological counseling. Chen said that China's legal system holds the view that it is responsible for minors. "Of course minors who commit illegal deeds should be punished. However, punishment is not the ultimate goal, and is not done to calm the public's anger. The goal is to give them an opportunity to start over."