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2021-06-01 04:32:37

A woman from the northern Shanxi province was sentenced to life in prison Monday for beating her 12-year-old stepdaughter into a vegetative state.

The ruling comes amid a Chinese government push to toughen penalties in child abuse cases, with a newly revised law on the protection of minors due to come into effect Tuesday.

The case in Shanxi first came to light in May 2020, when the girl was hospitalized with a head injury and fell into a coma. At first, the girl’s stepmother — a 42-year-old surnamed Wang — claimed the child had hit her head when falling from a garage roof. 

But when doctors examined the girl, they began to suspect the blow had been caused intentionally, and called the police. Wang was placed in criminal detention soon after. She was charged with abuse and causing intentional injury, and was prosecuted in February this year.

According to the verdict, Wang was given a two-year sentence for abuse and a life sentence for causing intentional injury. She was also ordered to pay the girl over 1.28 million yuan ($201,000) in compensation for economic losses suffered as a result of her injuries.

The girl’s father, surnamed Liu, told domestic media he was grateful for the verdict, but cautioned that Wang planned to prolong her legal battle. “Apparently she didn’t confess to her crimes and said in court that she would appeal,” Liu said.

Also on Monday, China’s top procuratorate held a press conference, in which officials said they were pushing to further clamp down on child abuse — speeding up arrests and prosecutions, and pushing for heavier punishments, including the death penalty.

“The procuratorate will further explore working with public security departments and women’s federations to conduct ‘one-stop’ inquiries during investigations,” Shi Weizhong, a director at the Supreme People’s Procuratorate responsible for cases involving the protection of minors, told reporters. He added the body would strive to offer more support to especially vulnerable victims, such as “left-behind” children in rural areas.

Chinese authorities have taken several steps to clamp down on child abuse in recent years, in light of rising public concerns about conditions inside the country’s education system. Last year, the government introduced new rules criminalizing failures to report cases of abuse. 

According to Shi, Chinese authorities arrested 127,000 people and prosecuted 171,000 suspects for committing crimes against minors between 2018 and 2020.

Editor: Dominic Morgan.

(Header image: People Visual)