Too young to be criminal

Updated: 2013-12-18 08:04

By He Na in Beijing and Zhang Chunyan in London (China Daily)

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Toddler beating case exposes legal dilemma in preventing juvenile crimes, report He Na in Beijing and Zhang Chunyan in London

A brutal and apparently motiveless attack that left a baby boy hospitalized with severe injuries has sparked public outrage across China. That outrage has been further stoked by news that police are unable to charge the assailant because she is younger than 14.

On Nov 25 in Chongqing, the girl, surnamed Li, attacked an unrelated toddler named Li Xinyuan after he became separated from his grandmother. She first assaulted the toddler in an elevator in the apartment block where they both lived, before taking him to her family's apartment where the attack continued.

When the elderly grandmother finally confronted the girl, Xinyuan was nowhere to be seen. When questioned, the girl claimed she had been playing with him on a 25th-floor balcony when he accidentally fell.

Xinyuan was later discovered on the ground outside the apartment block. He was covered in blood and had fractures to his skull and right eye socket. The boy is now being treated at a hospital where he will undergo surgery. He faces a long period of recovery.

The details of the incident are sketchy. Li calmly told the police that she took the boy to her home and "played with" - i.e. assaulted - him on the balcony, but didn't explain the reason for the attack or provide any further details.

Li's father told the media that his daughter has behaved normally since the attack and has shown no sign of remorse or emotional turbulence.

"In the face of such an attack, it's normal for the public to be angry and respond with a huge show of concern. The case has sounded alarm bells and the government and related departments must take concerted action to prevent similar cases. Failure to do that would leave them open to accusations that they condone this sort of behavior," said Li Meijin, a professor of criminal psychology at the People's Public Security University of China.

"The severity of the case means the families involved are unable to handle the attention, so the government and social organizations should intervene. If this attack were to be copied, no child would be safe," warned Li, who raised concerns about the way the police dealt with the case.

 Too young to be criminal

Xinyuan's grandfather displays a photo of the 18-month-old boy receiving treatment in the ICU. Li Jian / Xinhua 

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