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#International News

China has lowered the age of criminal responsibility for murder and some other serious crimes from 14 to 12 after some high-profile killings by children.

The change means that children aged between 12 and 14 who commit crimes such as intentional homicide, or intentional injury that leads to death or severe disability, will now be held criminally liable. Before, they were exempt from criminal punishment, but could be ordered to undergo correctional education.

Currently, the age of criminal liability in China is 16, but teenagers aged 14 to 16 can be charged and punished as criminals for serious crimes including intentional homicide, rape and robbery.

The issue of whether to lower the criminal age of responsibility came to the fore after a case last year in which a 13-year-old boy confessed to police that he had killed a 10-year-old girl.

State media reported that the girl failed to return home from a painting class one Sunday afternoon. The girl’s father said that the boy had tricked the girl into entering his home, sexually assaulted her, stabbed her to death and then dumped her body on the side of a road.

Following the killing in Dalian city in northeastern China, the boy was sent to a juvenile rehabilitation centre for three years. There was public outrage over what was perceived to be his lenient treatment.

In another case, a 13-year-old boy was allegedly beaten to death in August in Shaanxi province by six juveniles, including one who was under the age of 14, according to reports last month. The youngest has been placed under the supervision of a guardian, while the other five have been arrested on suspicion of intentional injury causing death.

Authorities have previously announced an increase in the number of juvenile cases being handled by prosecutors.

Last year, there was a 5 per cent increase year-on-year in the number of prosecutions of juveniles, with the most common crimes being theft, robbery, intentional injury, affray, creating disturbances and rape, according to a white paper released by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate in June.

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