Li Tianyi, the son of a People’s Liberation Army general, has been charged with participation in the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman with four other men. The teenager, whose trial began Aug. 28, has denied the charges.
Li’s father, Li Shuangjiang, is a People’s Liberation Army general and the dean of the music department at the army’s Academy of Arts. His mother, Meng Ge, is a well-known military singer. Li’s background has triggered outrage at the country’s privileged elite for entitlement and misbehavior.
The Beijing Times reported that Li and his companions forced the woman, surnamed Yang, into a hotel room. When she refused to take off her clothes, they beat her and forced her to strip. Li raped her first, followed by the others, allegedly. They left Yang on the side of a road with 2,000 yuan (about $325), the allegations said.
Li claimed that he had been drunk and did not remember the incident, which happened this February in a Beijing hotel.
Yi Yanyou, a professor of law at Beijing’s Qinghua Univeristy, suggested in a post on his microblog that the victim was a prostitute and therefore less harmed by the rape than if she had been a “chaste woman.” The professor’s statements have added to the controversy surrounding the case. He has since apologized.
Li’s family, however, asserts that the case is one of prostitution, not rape. Li’s mother Meng Ge filed a claim with the Beijing Public Security Bureau to accuse Zhang Guangyao, manager of the bar where Ms. Yang, an office secretary, worked a part-time job as a hostess, with pimping and extortion.
Li Zaike, defense attorney, told state media China News, “I am familiar with the case details. Prostitution and rape – I think there’s a bit of both. We’ll have to see how the court handles it.”
Netizens reacted angrily at the case, condemning Li Tianyi and the alleged co-perpetrators.
“Youhe”, from Jiangsu: “Rich, powerful, and famous people are indeed privileged. The rule of law applies differently to them. It’s so appalling to see them even attempt to defend themselves after committing gang rape.”
A Beijing netizen with the handle “This summer is so cold” wrote: “Li’s family challenges human intelligence. They use such despicable means to defend Li Tianyi. He ought to be punished heavily for such contempt of court, or else the people cannot be appeased.”
Another poster from Beijing wrote: “How could Li Tianyi present himself as a victim? If the criminal is let free, it will amount to rape of the law.”
Wealthy Chinese officials are often accused of manipulating the legal system for their own ends. In one famous incident, which occurred in 2010 in Hebei Province, the son of a local Public Security Bureau official, ran over and killed a college student. When confronted by the police, he threatened them, saying: “Sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang!”
In 2011, when he was 15, Li Tianyi hit another car with his BMW. He and another teenager then allegedly beat and threatened the couple that was in the other vehicle in, according to the New York Times. The BMW had no license plate and Li was not legally permitted to drive at his age. He was detained for assault and spent a year in a correctional facility, state media reported.