The age of criminal responsibility in China is expected to be lowered to 12 in some special situations in accordance with a draft amendment to the Criminal Law.
The amendment was submitted to the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top legislature, for a second review on Tuesday.
The draft says children aged from 12 to 14 should shoulder criminal responsibility if charges of intentional homicide or intentional injury causing deaths or in cruel circumstances are approved by the Supreme People's Procuratorate.
The age of criminal responsibility is currently 16, with people aged between 14 and 16 only held criminally liable if they commit serious violent offenses, such as intentional homicide, rape or robbery.
Those under the age of 14 who commit crimes can be exempt from criminal punishment.
"The age-related change in the draft amendment is due to several serious violent offenses committed by very young people that shocked the nation and aroused public concern," Zhou Guangquan, a member of NPC's Constitution and Law Committee, said when introducing the draft to lawmakers on Tuesday.
He said it also stipulates that people with special responsibilities, including those guarding, adopting, looking after, educating or offering medical aid to juveniles, will be held criminally liable if they have sex with girls aged from 14 to 16, irrespective of whether it's consensual.
Those who rape girls under the age of 10 will face a sentence of more than 10 years in prison, and could even face life imprisonment or the death penalty.