Opinions are divided over whether children should be held responsible for crimes from the age of seven, a survey released yesterday found. While most experts from social welfare, legal and education bodies said the age should be raised to 10 or even to 14, respondents from the general public did not agree. About 60 per cent of the 539 people interviewed for the survey preferred the age to remain unchanged. They feared children would be exploited by triad gangs if the age was raised. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, which conducted the survey, said the issue required wide consultation. Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, an Executive Councillor and the federation's chief executive, said: 'It's a world trend to raise the age of criminal responsibility to protect children. But the general public are worried about this. 'The Government should examine the issue with great care as raising the age might send a wrong message to the public that crimes are acceptable in Hong Kong.' The survey showed most of the 45 consulted professionals believed the age should be raised to 10. The Law Reform Commission is discussing the topic. It hoped a consultation paper would be issued in the first half of next year. The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Hong Kong is among the lowest in the world. The age is set at 10 in Britain, 13 in France, 14 in Japan and China, and 18 in Brazil and Peru. Law professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, of Hong Kong University, said the age could be raised to 10 as few children committed crimes at that age or below. However, he predicted a heated debate over raising the age to 12 or above. Thomas Mulvey, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, said the age should be raised to 14 as children below this age were not mature.