Legal and education experts are calling for the Criminal Law to be revised to include the offense of child abuse after a number of incidents in which minors were physically or sexually abused have come to light.
In one notorious recent case, Yan Yanhong, an uncertified teacher at a privately owned kindergarten in East China’s Zhejiang province, posted a photo online of her picking a boy up by his ears.
The child appeared to be shouting in the photo and seemed to be in great pain.
The police later found more than 700 photos in Yan’s e-album of children being abused in different manners, including being thrown into garbage cans or having their mouths sealed with plastic tape.
Yan was detained by the police last week.
Under current law, prosecutors can charge her only with “picking fights and provoking trouble”, the normal charge when someone assaults a person and provokes and causes public disorder, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Cai Liming, director of the judicial department of the public security bureau in Wenling, the city where the incident took place, said that charge was filed because Yan could not be charged with the crimes of abuse, causing intentional injury or insult.
“The crime of abuse pertains to someone who abuses a family member, but the kindergarten teacher is not a family member of the children,” he said.
“The crime of intentional injury deals with cases in which someone was physically injured, and the child was not injured to a degree that would justify that charge,” he said.
“An insult charge requires that the offended person sues the offender, and the child cannot sue because he was not an adult.”The charge of picking fights and provoking trouble is based on the fact that the teacher ignored social ethics when she attacked the children, he said.
Yao Jianlong, a legal expert at East China University of Political Science and Law and an advocate of better legal protection for children, said that current criminal law does not specify the punishment in child-abuse cases, and most offenders will be exempt from punishment unless the abuse caused grave injury or death.
Although many laws and even the Constitution have forbidden the abuse of children, there are no clear definitions of abuse and the punishment is too lenient, he said.
Experts are also calling for more severe punishment of preschool teachers who abuse children.
“Memories of abuse will have a negative effect on a child’s development,” said Hou Juanzhen, vice-president of Yuncheng Preschool Educators’ College in Shanxi province. “Lots of criminals were abused as children.”Hou said that many training institutions attach great importance to preschool educators’ teaching abilities, but not enough to ethics issues.
“The training of preschool teachers is very market-oriented. Kindergartens want to hire teachers with better teaching skills and often ignore their ethics,” she said.