Chongqing girl's savage attack on toddler blamed on her violent parents

Soul-searching in media over shocking incident in Chongqing, with some pointing to 10-year-old's own harsh upbringing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 4:58am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 December, 2013, 4:58am

Revelations that the 10-year-old girl who severely beat a toddler in a Chongqing lift last month was herself subject to abuse at home has sparked a national discussion about the social causes of such violent outbursts.

The girl, wearing her backpack on her way home from school, was caught on surveillance video on November 24 snatching the one-year-old boy from a stroller as his grandmother pushed him from a lift in the building where they all live.

Once alone in the lift with the boy, the girl threw him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly. She then took him up to her flat on the 25th floor, where she continued to beat him and possibly dropped him from the balcony. The child's grandmother found him on the ground outside the building. He was in a coma.

"His head was swollen," the woman told The Beijing News. "He was covered with blood."

The brutality of the attack and the age of the suspect stunned the nation after the surveillance video was posted online last week. But, as the shock subsided, some began to wonder whether the girl's parents or society in general should share the blame.

"How did this girl let the fierce tiger hidden in her heart out of its cage?" asked The Beijing News in a commentary published with a series on the attack. "There seemed to be no motivation and hatred. Why is she so violent?"

One explanation offered by the newspaper was the admission by the girl's father that he and her mother had often beaten and scolded the girl. As a victim of violence, the girl might want to take out her anger and frustration on those weaker than her.

"Violence generates more violence," the paper said.

The reports also noted the general lack of psychological intervention and child protection services on the mainland. The girl's classmates told the paper that the girl had mentioned wanting to put a baby in a bag and throw it from a tall building, a possible warning sign of the attack.

The girl's father denied that she had intended to throw the boy from the balcony. He said the girl had just wanted the boy to "smile at her, obey and play with her".

The boy came out of his coma on Friday, according to Chongqing news portal Cqnews.net He remains in a critical condition with a fractured skull and broken sternum. Outrage over the incident was further fuelled by the announcement by local police that they would not criminally charge the girl because a person must be at least 14 to be prosecuted under mainland law.

The Legal Evening News noted the girl's family could still be liable for civil damages and could be held responsible for making sure she receives proper treatment. So far, the girl's family has paid 58,000 yuan (HK$74,000) to cover the boy's medical treatment. That has not satisfied the boy's family, who have sued the girl's parents for 300,000 yuan in court.

The Beijing News reported that the girl's parents work for a large state-owned enterprise. The girl's mother was transferred to the western region of Xinjiang last week and took the girl with her, it said.

The public appears to favour harsher penalities for the girl and her parents. Only 1 per cent of the nearly 350,000 people who participated in an online survey conducted by Sina, the country's largest online news portal, believed she was too young to bear any responsibility.

The respondents said it would be natural for the girl to behave violently if she had been treated violently herself.

The Beijing Times attributed the attack to a cycle of violence. It cited Hungarian author Agota Kristof's novel The Notebook about two brothers raised by their harsh grandmother in war-torn Eastern Europe. To stop children from growing up violent, society had to first stop violent parenting, the paper said. "The girl is not alone."