Dealing with serious offenders under the age of 14 has long been a gray area in China.
Wu Jiakang, 12, from central China's Hubei Province, stabbed his mother to death but was then released without charge, sparking a heated debate around how to deal with juvenile crimes.
Wu launched the fatal attack on his mother Chen Xin, 34, on November 2, after she beat him with a leather belt when she caught him smoking.
She succumbed to more than 20 stab wounds as she slept in her bedroom, according to Beijing News. The next morning, her body was discovered when the kid's grandparents visited the apartment.
During the first interrogation, Wu said he killed his mother since he was unhappy with her way of parenting, especially the beating he had received.
Under China's law, children under the age of 13 cannot be held criminally responsible. Children aged 14 to 16 who have launched serious crimes are sent to juvenile delinquent prisons.
In this case, Wu could not be detained and was therefore sent back to his parents or other guardians.
"I made the mistake," he is reported as telling his uncle after being released. "But I didn't kill someone else. I just killed my mum."
The case, especially these words, have shocked netizens across China, with local people concerned about the safety of their children.
"He just got away without any punishment. But what if he did something like that again when back to school," one anonymous resident told Hongxing News.
"He will be too dangerous to the society, like a time bomb," commented @Gaoxiongdabao.
"The kid is the victim of domestic violence," commented @Shizuofanweiya.
"He is so young. How can we adult punish him and put him into prison?" one of the boy's relatives said. "If he does not go to school, what kind of man he will be in the future? Or we hope he could at least be supervised by juvenile prisons owned by government."
Ouyang Chenyu, a law scholar in China, said that Wu's behavior and response after being released were anti-social.
"For other parents, there are many good reasons for them to be afraid," Ouyang said. "It is dangerous for other kids if he was sent back to school again. However, how to deal with these juvenile crimes has long been a gray area."
Currently, the boy is staying at home with his father, who had been working far away from home in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province.