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He was caught on camera touching his daughter. Police say it's OK

Inkstone logo Inkstone 7/11/2018
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Public outrage has followed a police decision not to press charges against a father who was filmed kissing and caressing his young daughter on a train in southeastern China.

In a video, which went viral this week, the 30-year-old man is seen fondling a young girl sitting in his lap. The man lifts the child's shirt, strokes her back and tries to kiss her on the mouth. The girl appears to be trying to push the man away.

"The father then put his hands under her pants. The girl then said, 'father, you are touching my buttocks again, it's painful.' She continued to struggle," a female passenger who filmed the video told the Hangzhou-based newspaper City Express, adding that she had not filmed this part because her phone ran out of battery.

On Wednesday, the Nanchang Railway Police in the southeastern province of Jiangxi said on the Twitter-like platform Weibo that the father's behavior did not constitute molestation, and could not be deemed illegal.

The public response was overwhelmingly negative. Many were convinced that what the father did should be regarded as child sexual abuse.

In China, sex is a taboo subject. Since women's chastity is valued, victims of sexual abuse often carry deep shame.

Abuse of minors is considered even more taboo. But in recent years, there's growing awareness of sexual abuse, leading to more open discussions, especially online.

"It was obvious that the girl tried to resist her father's caresses and kisses, both verbally and trying to push him away. But even this didn't constitute molestation?" asked Weibo user bilibili Yue Ban Ji.

Another Weibo user said: "The lives of many children have been ruined because people like you are tasked with protecting them!"

Wang Zhenyu, a lawyer at Beijing-based Yipai Law Firm, said that under Chinese law, that it may have been difficult for police to charge the father because of the currently accepted legal definition of molestation.

An act is legally defined as molestation when it is judged to have been performed with sexual intent.

"The police may have concluded that because it was a father and daughter, the act did not constitute molestation. If that's so, it's illogical. Fathers can molest or even rape their daughters," he said.

"However, they might mean that, while investigating, they found because they are father and daughter, the action did not involve sexual desire."

In response to the police's statement, Beijing-based NGO Girls' Protection said there should be a "boundary" between father and daughter, and parents should be careful with how they express love and intimacy to children.

Molestation of adults carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. But offenders who commit the crime in public face a harsher punishment, with a minimum penalty of five years in jail.

Chinese law recommends that the penalty meted out to child molesters should generally be more severe than abusers of adults. In this context, children are defined as people under the age of 14.

This story originally appeared on Inkstone, a daily multimedia digest of China-focused news and features. Like what you see? Sign up for our newsletter, download our app, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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