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China: Underage prostitution ring sparks public indignation

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.

“当时我很怕,被他们逼着进了一家旅馆,一个30来岁的男人锁上门后就动手脱我的衣服,我吓得直哭。事后‘结拜姐姐’威胁我不能把事说出去,否则要叫人打我。”在这里,王清被一个叫冯支洋的教师夺走了第一次。“我后来才知道他是习水县第一职业高级中学的老师。他很变态,玩了许多花样。

“I was so afraid. I was forced into a hotel where the man locked the door and stripped me. I kept crying. Afterward, the girl (the 14-year-old organizer) threatened me that if I talk about it with anyone else, I would be beaten up.”Wang was then deprived of her virginity by the teacher named Feng Zhiyang. “I later found out he is a teacher in the local vocational high school. He is so perverted in the things he made me do!

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:

当悲剧以一种令人发指的方式呈现出来,留给人们的却是一种从未有过的荒凉与寒冷。习水县多名公职人员嫖宿年幼女生案不只是一场人伦悲剧,更像是一场恶魔的狂欢。

When the tragedy was revealed in such a dramatic way, it made people feel angry while frustrated. It is ashamed that such a tragedy could take place! It is not simply about moral degeneration, it is like that devils have dominated the world!

The Communist Party secretary of Politics and Law in Xishui County, where the case happened, said in an interview by China Youth Daily:

“我们都是为人之父,如果我们的女儿被别人这么搞,我们的感受会怎么样?

We are all fathers and if our daughters were raped like this, what would we feel?

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:

习水县人民检察院撒了个弥天大谎,以最低刑的起点来认为嫖宿幼女罪比强奸罪高为由,表白自己是在从严打击,可是稍有点法律常识的人都知道我国《刑法》中嫖宿幼女罪的处罚程度远低于强奸罪,因为强奸罪最高刑是死刑,而嫖宿幼女罪最高刑期是有期徒刑十五年,孰轻孰重我想地球人都知道。

The prosecutor told a great lie in claiming that ‘visiting an underage prostitute’ or ‘having sex with underage prostitute’ is a far stronger a charge than raping; he is trying to show that he is being tough on crime since “visiting an underage prostitute’ carries a higher minimum sentence. But anyone with some knowledge of the law would know that the penalty for such charge is much less than that of raping, which can result in a death penalty whilst the other can only send them into jail for 15 years maximum. We all know which is the lighter penalty!

Lawyer Yao echoed the point in his blog, condemning that the procurator was manipulating the public:

虽然大多数法律人倾向于以强奸罪定罪,但公诉机关仍然坚持以嫖宿幼女罪起诉,….当记者问到为什么不以强奸罪起诉时,习水县检察院检察长是这样回答的:嫖宿幼女罪的起刑点是五年以上有期徒刑,强奸罪是三年以上,嫖宿幼女罪的起刑点高,因此有利于打击犯罪。这样一个回答,如果不是出于无知,那就一定是别有用心,是欺侮民众的智商。嫖宿幼女罪的起刑点固然高过强奸罪,但最高刑期不过是15年,而强奸罪却是可以判无期乃至于死刑的.

Though most lawyers thought it should be ‘raping', the prosecutor insisted on the charge of ‘visiting an underage prostitute'. When asked why, he answered, ‘the charge has a minimum punishment of 5 years, while raping has only a 3 year minimum. The charge is conducive to eradicating such crimes.’ The answer, if it be not out of ignorance must have some ulterior motive! He has no reason not to know that raping can result in a death sentence whilst the other carries only a 15-year imprisonment at most.

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:

那是说当事的女孩子是自愿出卖自己的,只是因为没有到岁数,所以有此规定。在嫖宿幼女的场合,多是幼女“自愿”,甚至是在幼女主动纠缠的情况下进行的。换言之,犯罪行为的实施,受害幼女本人也有一定的过错。相比(奸淫幼女)而言,行为人的主观恶性也较小….就是说,这么一个罪名不但开脱了侵害人,还把受害人给描绘成了有一定自愿情节的卖淫者。

‘Visiting an underage prostitute’ implies that the girls voluntarily sold themselves. The only difference from normal prostitution is their young age. Usually, it is the girls who voluntarily provide service and even actively importune the customers. In other words, the young girls should also be blamed. Compared to ‘raping young girls', the defendant is then held less responsible…Therefore, this prosecution not only seeks to excuse the aggressors, but also depicts the victims as voluntary prostitutes.

Lawyer Yao also commented on the whether it should be considered as raping:

按媒体的报道,这些可怜的孩子是在被殴打之后,是在被“打毒针,拍裸照”的威胁之下屈服的,与这些“公职禽兽”发生性关系不是出于她们的自愿,追求钱财也不是她们的目的,这难道还不算强奸吗?也许,在这位检察长的眼里,只要给钱了,就没有强奸罪了,那我看强奸罪也就可以取消了。

According to the news reports, the poor girls were forced into the ring after being beaten up and threatened with being given a poison injection and having naked pictures taken. They haven't been ‘volunteers’ in having sex with those ‘public beasts', and they were not doing it for money. Isn't it thus raping? Maybe, in the eyes of the procurator, as long as the girls were compensated there was no raping at all. Then I suggest the crime of rape itself should be canceled!

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:

“那个案子发生后,只有14岁的康倩和她的女朋友一起跑到深圳去打工。后来,公安局让我去把她找回家来,辨认那些嫖客。可她一句话都不肯说,就是不肯承认被男人欺负过。从深圳回来后,本来读初二的她就不再愿意去上学了,而是天天在外面混。有时一跑就是一两个月不回家,被我抓到后,痛打一顿,然后把她的头发剪得乱乱的,这样她才老老实实地在家里待上一阵。可过不了多久,又是经常不回家过夜,后来我干脆就买了条锁狗的铁链,把她锁在家里。”

‘After the case happened, 14-year-old Kang went to Shenzhen with her friends to find a job. The police later found her back and asked her to identify the customers. But she said not a single word, refusing to admit she had been bullied by any man. Back from Shenzhen, she stayed away from school and wandered outside, sometimes for one or two months. I caught her and beat her up, cutting her hair into a mess so that she would stay at home for a while. But not long afterwards she would again stay out overnight. I had to buy a dog chain to lock her in the home.’

Post co-edited by Bob Guy

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