The underage prostitution ring recently exposed in Xi-Shui County, Guizhou, has sparked nationwide fury. The ring involved several government officials and teachers as its customers and procured young girls, including those from primary school, as prostitutes.
The case was first investigated last year when a victim's mother reported her daughter had been enticed into the ring and raped. After an eight-day secret probe, provincial police discovered the prostitution ring, which was run by three individuals including a 14-year-old girl who is a school drop-out and her 15-year-old boyfriend. Surprisingly, the venue provided by another criminal for sexual service was actually in the building which houses the staff of the judicial department.
More than ten school girls, some of them under 14, were coaxed or threatened with violence to join the ring. Netease.com reported how a thirty-year-old teacher deprived the girl named Wang Qing of her virginity. Wang was lured by her friends to meet the prostitution organizers.
Later, however, Wang took another thirteen-year-old girl into the ring. The organization thus expanded step by step, with more innocent girls falling into the trap.
A few regular customers were listed by the police, including:
Official Li Shoumin, of the county migration office, land and resources official Chen Mengran, social security official Huang Yongliang, legal affairs official Chen Cun, local real estate developer and representative on local legislature Mu Mingzhong, school teacher Feng Zhiyang and taxi driver Feng Yong.
Degeneration, from the top down
The public was shocked that the officials from judicial system flouted law themselves and deflowered girls the age of their daughters. Moreover, the teachers that should have educated and protected students were doing exactly the opposite. What's wrong with these public servants?
Blogger Yang Genshen expressed his indignation in his blog:
The Communist Party secretary of Politics and Law in Xishui County, where the case happened, said in an interview by China Youth Daily:
He further commented, ‘the crime is more unforgivable than a murder!’
But the story has only just started with the exposure of the ring. As the officials were brought to trial, by what charge should they be prosecuted becomes a controversial issue.
The trial opened on 8 April. Hundreds of people stood outside the court waiting for the ruling verdict and scores of journalists waited but they were held outside as the court intended to protect the privacy of victims. Families of the victims were also denied entry to the courtroom.
The lawyer assigned to the defendants, however, didn't show up. Later he announced that he refused to defend them as he thinks it as a shame. Another lawyer was assigned.
A more dramatic scene followed. When the public got to know that the prosecutor tried to charge the defendants with ‘visiting an underage prostitute（嫖宿幼女）’ rather than the more serious charge ‘raping’, many suspected that the defendants were being protected in secret.
Lawyer Luo in his blog explained his doubts:
Lawyer Yao echoed the point in his blog, condemning that the procurator was manipulating the public:
More than the specious justification of choosing a lighter charge, people have been questioning how the crime can possibly be interpreted as ‘visiting underage prostitute’ rather than ‘raping’.
On Jinghua Daily, a Beijing-based newspaper, the well-known blogger Wuyuesanren (五岳散人）considered what the charge means:
Lawyer Yao also commented on the whether it should be considered as raping:
The trial has been adjourned. Whether the suspects will be found guilty and on what charges, the victims have been almost irretrievably damaged! But will they receive any comfort from their families or communities? From what a victim’s mother told the reporter we see no sign of any relief:
Post co-edited by Bob Guy