HAVE you ever run away from home or have wanted to do so? I did once when I was in primary school.
From the age of five until I was 12, I lived with my mother’s sister and her family in Perak while the rest of my family were in Selangor.
My late uncle was an ill-tempered man. One day, he scolded me for something that I can no longer remember, and chased me out.
I rushed to the room, packed my stuff and planned to catch a bus to return to Petaling Jaya. But my aunt stopped me and my runaway mission ended before it had even begun.
Most child runaways would have to walk or take a bus. But an 11-year-old boy from Linhai city of Zhejiang, an eastern coastal province of China, ran away from home last Monday morning in style – he drove his father’s Mercedes Benz.
“My son and my car have gone missing. I believe my boy is driving it. Oh yes, he is only 11,” the father told the police, as reported in Qianjiang Evening News.
Policeman Luo Yongxiang led a team that tracked down the car with the help of colleagues who were monitoring surveillance cameras.
After searching nearly half of the city for about an hour, Luo spotted the car and ordered the boy to stop. The kid stepped on the accelerator instead but pulled over a minute later.
“There has been too much homework recently and I’m under pressure. You adults only send me to school and pick me up. You do not care if I’m happy or not,” he told his father, surnamed Zhou, at the police station.
This was the boy’s first time behind a real steering wheel.
“I observed how my dad drove and learned by myself. It’s not difficult. It’s just like driving my toy car,” he explained.
Recalling the events of that morning, Zhou said he needed a bath before sending his son to school. He told the boy to wait.
“School again. Everyday is school,” the boy grumbled.
But the father did not take it seriously. After showering, Zhou discovered his car key and the child are missing.
However, the boy was not punished because 14 is the statutory age for criminal responsibility according to Chinese law.
On the same day, a nine-year-old boy tried to run away by climbing down his apartment balcony on the 20th floor.
The boy from Shangdong, another coastal province in the eastern region, was stuck on the air-conditioner platform one floor below his home. Neighbours alerted the fire brigade.
The boy, who was not hurt, said he had too much homework and could not take it any more.
Another schoolboy was also in the news recently, but for a more shocking reason.
The 12-year-old from Yuanjiang in central China’s Hunan province killed his mother on Dec 2 by stabbing her with a knife after she had beaten him for stealing.
The incident was discovered the following day when the victim’s father came to the house. He looked into her bedroom through a window and saw bloodstains. His daughter was lying on the floor. The boy was arrested but was released soon after.
“He is too young for us to do anything,” said a policeman as reported in China Daily.
Apart from the fact that those below 14 cannot face criminal prosecution, there is also the issue that many provinces lack government-run shelter and rehabilitation centres for juvenile delinquents.
On Dec 7, the boy’s father sent him to back to school but faced strong opposition from other parents, who were worried that he might commit other crimes there.
His grandfather claimed that the boy has shown abnormal behaviour since he suffered head injuries a few years ago.
According to Chinese laws, those diagnosed with mental diseases can be ordered to undergo compulsory medical treatment.
Last Thursday, he was sent to an undisclosed place in Changsha, about 100km from his hometown, under the supervision of several organisations for three years.
The boy is a “left-behind child”, whose parents work in the cities. Left-behind children is another big issue in China, but it is a topic for another day.
According to news reports, the boy has shown no signs of remorse. When asked if he knew what he did was wrong, he said: “I killed my mother, not someone else.”
In China, I have seen kids punching and kicking their parents or grandparents, and yet they were not reprimanded. Sometimes, the adults responded by merely smiling.
“Aiya, ma ya (this is an expression most Chinese in the northern regions used, just like our adoi). It hurts. Oh no. Hahahaha ...”
I could only roll my eyes.
Parents, if you do not teach your children properly, society will do so in the future and the methods will be much more severe.