HONG KONG >> A court in Beijing sentenced the teenage son of a celebrity military singer to 10 years in prison Thursday after finding him and four other young people guilty of rape in a case that galvanized discussion in China about the reckless lives of some offspring of the Communist Party elite.
The verdict against Li Tianyi, the 17-year-old son of Li Shuangjiang, a senior performer in the People’s Liberation Army, came nearly a month after the younger Li and the other defendants faced trial. Li’s mother, Meng Ge, is also a well-known military singer, and his prominent, privileged background made his trial the focus of intense local media attention, with citizens voicing suspicions that he might receive leniency because of his status.
The verdict appeared intended to quell such doubts. The court found that in February, the five defendants – four of them in their teens and a 23-year-old man – took an inebriated woman from a bar, forced her into a hotel room, successively raped her and also molested her in other ways, the state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported. The judges rejected Li’s assertion that he had been asleep during the assault.
“The court determined that Li was an initiator of the joint crime, as well as a main actor in the violence,” said the Xinhua report, citing the decision by the Haidian District Court in Beijing. “His status and role were clearly greater than the other accused, and he showed no remorse.”
Li had already gained notoriety in 2011, after a BMW he was driving hit another car, and he and another teenager stepped out and beat and threatened the couple in that vehicle. The Beijing police later sent him to a labor camp for juvenile offenders.
The verdict against Li was the second in recent days involving a son of the Chinese elite. When a Chinese court sentenced a fallen politician, Bo Xilai, to life in prison Sunday, it described extravagant spending by Bo’s son, Bo Guagua, who the court said was involved in spending tainted money. Bo Guagua is studying law at Columbia University and has previously rejected the allegations against his father.
The court in Beijing said Li’s sentence was lighter than would have been given an adult convicted of the same crime. The adult defendant in the case received a prison sentence of 12 years, and the other minors received sentences ranging from three to four years, Xinhua said.
Before the verdict was announced, a legal adviser for Li’s family said they would appeal any guilty verdict, according to a report on the website of the People’s Daily newspaper.