Missing 4-year-old found dead, triggering discussion on punishment of negligent guardians
Published: Oct 19, 2023 11:25 PM
The lost girl, Huang, is posted by her father on Sina Weibo.

The photo of the lost 4-year-old girl posted by her father on Sina Weibo Photo: Weibo

The body of the 4-year-old girl who was missing at a beach in Shanghai about two weeks ago was found in a mudflat in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, according to a statement released by Shanghai police on Thursday. The accident has sparked a heated discussion over guardianship responsibility and the public has called for the supervision and punishment of negligent guardians who fail to fulfill their responsibilities.

The Shanghai police were notified by Ningbo police on Wednesday morning that a body was found, whose clothing and other characteristics were similar to those of the missing girl at the Shanghai beach.

The police immediately went to the scene to conduct a preliminary examination. Forensic analysis confirmed the girl's identity, who was the missing girl, surnamed Huang. The cause of death was consistent with drowning, no signs of a crime had taken place, and the relevant aftermath works have been further carried out, according to the police.

After the tragic accident occurred on October 4, it has generated significant online attention, and once again triggered the wide discussion on her father's negligence. There has been much debate about "whether a father's negligence of duty constitutes a crime" and the guardians' neglect of children.

The girl's father said that he brought the girl to play about 20 meters away from the shoreline on that day. The father went away to get his mobile phone and left Huang, the 4-year-old girl, alone on the beach. After more than 10 minutes, the father returned to the beach but could not find his daughter, according to local police.

Sanlian Lifeweek Magazine, an influential weekly with 24 million followers on Chinese-X like Sina Weibo, ran a poll on Thursday on Weibo - "Do you support raising the penalty for guardians' child neglect," with more than 180,000 netizens participating in the poll as of Thursday night. Some netizens said that they supported to raise the penalty to guardians' child neglect, as parents should be responsible for their children.

"Disciplining guardians' 'neglect' is the best preventive measure for protecting minors," one netizen wrote.

"There was still no miraculous good news finally. The 4-year-old girl, who had not yet truly known the world, and left hastily. Perhaps the law can't say that the father is at fault or not, but from a human perspective, I believe that he is not a qualified father," another netizen wrote.

Netizens have differing opinions and perspectives on the matter, due to their own experiences and cultural backgrounds. Some netizens expressed empathy and understanding, saying that it is crucial to respect the legal process to determine the father's legal responsibility. Others mentioned that the ultimate goal of this discussion is to raise parents' awareness of child safety to prevent such tragic incidents from happening again.

Two newly revised laws directly linked to children's welfare took effect on June 1, 2021, to provide Chinese minors with better protection both at school and home, online and offline, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Since the full implementation of the "supervision and custody order" in June 2021, a total of more than 76,000 "orders" have been issued by national procuratorial organs to address issues such as severe parental neglect and domestic violence against minors, according to a report by Legal Daily in March.

Global Times