China mother is jailed for killing paralysed twin sons

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A Chinese mother has been sentenced to five years in jail for killing her 13-year-old twin sons who were paralysed by cerebral palsy.

Han Qunfeng, 37, gave her sons sleeping pills before drowning them in a bathtub and then tried to kill herself.

She confessed to the murders at her trial earlier this month, saying she "just wanted them to leave quietly".

Judges said the "lenient" sentence was intended to highlight the strain on parents as full-time carers.

"We were trying to look for a balance between law and sympathy in the case," said Xue Fengyan, a judge at the court was quoted by the state-run China Daily as saying.

"She has a very complicated family background and motive. That's why we decided to hand down the lenient sentence," Mr Xue said.

Public sympathy

Han's twin boys were born prematurely and had cerebral palsy, a condition disrupting the nerve signals between the brain and the muscles, leading to problems with movement, posture and co-ordination.

She had recently given up her job as a bank clerk in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, to care for the boys full-time.

The cost of their treatment had brought the family to the brink of bankruptcy, state media reported.

"I just wanted them to leave quietly. I would not kill them if we could go back in time," Han told the judges, according to the China Daily.

She attempted to take her own life by drinking pesticide and rat poison, the newspaper said.

Neighbours and former colleagues had written a joint letter to the court pleading for mercy for Han.

Those convicted of murder in China can face long jail terms, including a life sentence or the death penalty.

Xinhua news agency reported that the judges "were more concerned whether the case could trigger improvements to the social assistance system and pool help from society for these special families".

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