Arguments between people in romantic relationships and marriages have contributed to a large number of recent murder and intentional injury cases, especially in rural areas where residents know little about the law, according to the courts.
More than half of the 60 intentional homicide cases accepted from 2007 to 2011 by courts in Huai'an, a city in Jiangsu province, were the result of marriage and love spats, according to a report published by the Huai'an Intermediate People's Court earlier this month.
In Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, marriage and love relationships were blamed for 11 out of the 20 murder cases that occurred in the first half of 2007, according to Li Juan, a judge from the Xuzhou Intermediate People's Court.
"We haven't revised the count for the years after that, but the figures remain high," she said.
Fan Zhenfeng, a judge in Huai'an's Hongze county who wrote the research report for Huai'an, said these cases are the source of great social harm and often impose hardships on families.
"We hope people can learn lessons from these unfortunate acts and think twice about how they behave when they are in disputes," he said.
Among the criminal cases arising from marriage disputes, 40 per cent were related to adulterous affairs, said Fan.
Zheng Lu, a 32-year-old man in Huai'an, shocked the country in September 2011 when he killed nine people after coming to suspect his wife was having an affair with his friend. Among the victims, who ranged in age from 6 to 72, was a woman pregnant with twins.
Zheng was sentenced to death.
"It's common for men from rural areas to work in cities and for couples in those places to be separated for most of the year," Fan said. "And that's a big contributor to these cases."
Such crimes are more rare in big cities.
Conflicts between couples in love and marriage were to blame in about 15 per cent of the homicide cases heard by courts in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, from 2008 to 2011.
The number in Shanghai is even lower. District courts in the municipality said they did not notice anything unusual about the frequency with which love crimes had occurred there.
"In the past three years, only one intentional injury case happened as a result of a love dispute," said Yue Mingjing, a publicity officer from the Qingpu district court in Shanghai.
"A woman hired someone to attack her husband after finding he was having an extramarital affair."
Most of the cases happened in the countryside, the Huai'an report showed, and 24 of the 32 people convicted of these sorts of crimes in that city had only received the primary or junior high school education. Another three were illiterate.
Many judges said crimes tend to be more common among lovers and spouses in rural areas because people in such places tend to know little about the law.
"They are ignorant of what is illegal or criminal and of the consequences of their behavior," Fan said. "They are more likely to resort to violence to deal with these issues instead of going about it the proper way."
Some lawyers said rural residents' tight social circles have also contributed to the crimes being more common in the countryside.
Perpetrators and victims in murder cases usually have close relationships with each other, and rural people get along with their families and fellow villagers most of the time, according to Yi Shenghua, an attorney at the Yingke Law Firm in Beijing.
"No matter where cases of this kind happen, the way to prevent these sorts of misdeeds is to abstain from extramarital love and illicit cohabitation," he said.