Asian Journal of Criminology

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 199–216 | Cite as

Homicide–Suicide in China: an Exploratory Study of Characteristics and Types

  • James A. Densley
  • Susan M. Hilal
  • Spencer D. Li
  • Wei Tang


This study explores 63 homicide–suicide cases that include two or more homicide victims, in the People’s Republic of China. This is the first study to examine homicide–suicide in the Chinese context, following calls to develop a research strategy outside of the USA and Europe. Data are derived from a content analysis of Chinese news sources from 2000 to 2014. Findings show homicide–suicide offenders are likely to be married males living in rural cities who kill their intimate partners and/or children inside a residence using knives. Intimate partner conflict and extramarital affairs are precipitating factors in almost half of the incidents. Patterns of homicide–suicide in China are comparable to those in high-income countries, except that firearms are not the primary means in China and there is no evidence of “mercy killing” among older persons, as described in western homicide–suicide studies. Findings are related to the social and economic structure of Chinese society. Clinical and policy implications include the need for greater transparency and a nationwide homicide and suicide tracking system in China, stricter domestic violence laws, postmortem studies of the brains of homicide–suicide offenders, and psychological autopsies on homicide–suicide perpetrators.


Homicide–suicide Murder Suicide Intimate partner violence China 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No funding was received to complete this manuscript.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Not applicable.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Densley
    • 1
  • Susan M. Hilal
    • 1
  • Spencer D. Li
    • 2
  • Wei Tang
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Law Enforcement and Criminal JusticeMetropolitan State UniversityBrooklyn ParkUSA
  2. 2.University of MacauMacauChina

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