Dorm Death Prompts Calls for Tougher Laws on Youth Crime
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2017-12-07 09:52:37

Police have detained six teenagers after a freshman at a vocational school in central China’s Hunan province was beaten to death, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Wednesday.

Early Tuesday morning, an argument broke out in a dormitory at Hunan Electronic Technology Vocational College and soon turned into a mass brawl. Yao Xuchao, a 15-year-old auto repair major, was seriously injured and later died despite emergency rescue efforts.

Yao had started three months earlier at the school, a five-year secondary college in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, with 12,000 students aged 15 to 19. School officials told The Paper that the incident occurred in the early hours of the morning, after teachers had made their routine bedtime checks in the dormitories.

According to the Changsha public security bureau, five students are in criminal detention, and one is in administrative detention. All six students involved are freshmen and minors, but no further details have been released, as the law on the protection of minors forbids the publication of identifying information for underage suspects or convicted offenders.

Zhang Hongwei, a law professor at Jinan University in the southern city of Guangzhou, told Sixth Tone on Thursday that the detained students could be charged with intentional homicide or intentional injury resulting in death. However, he said, the country’s criminal law stipulates that underage offenders must be given lighter or mitigated punishments.

On microblog platform Weibo, many users have weighed in on the case, calling for changes to legislation protecting minors. “The law shouldn’t ‘protect’ underage criminals from being punished, as everyone is equal under the law,” wrote one user.

Data released by the Supreme People’s Court last Thursday show that around 24,000 cases involving juvenile offenders were heard in 2016. Junior high school students made up 62 percent of offenders over the last two years, and over 90 percent of offenders were male. Nearly 45 percent of underage offenders were sentenced to between one and three years in prison.

Several violent incidents involving minors in recent years have led to a national debate on whether the law should be tougher on juvenile crime. In May, one student died in a fight at a junior high school in Dali, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, while in June 2016, a 15-year-old male student in Beijing stabbed three students from another school after a dispute, killing one.

Zhang the law professor believes that more serious penalties for underage offenders would create a stronger sense of criminal and moral responsibility among minors and reduce juvenile crime. “Only by assiduously reinforcing the accountability of juvenile offenders, in every case, can we help them turn over a new leaf,” he said.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

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