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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. 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.


“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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


‘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:


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:


‘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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