BEIJING – The son of a Chinese general went on trial Wednesday over his involvement in an alleged gang rape, state media said, in a case that sparked public outrage.
Li Tianyi is among five men who allegedly gang-raped a woman in a Beijing hotel in February, state-run Xinhua News Agency said, the latest allegation against the privileged children of officials to provoke anger.
The 17-year-old’s father, Li Shuangjiang, holds the rank of general as dean of the music department for the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Arts.
His mother, Meng Ge, a prominent singer, arrived at the court in Beijing on Wednesday morning but did not take questions from journalists, Xinhua said.
The family have reportedly argued the incident was a case of prostitution, rather than rape.
Xinhua quoted the victim’s lawyer saying that she had been hospitalized because of stress and would not take part in the hearings.
It was not clear how long the trial would last.
Elite youths in China are commonly perceived to live extravagantly or above the law due to their connections, and the case has dominated discussion in the country’s hugely popular Internet chat rooms.
Following reported remarks by Li’s family that the alleged victim may have been a bar hostess, a top legal expert inflamed controversy when he said the woman’s profession made the act of gang rape less harmful.
“Even if it was rape, the harm of raping a bar hostess is less than raping a woman from a good family,” Yi Yanyou, a law professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing said on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
Li Tianyi triggered public controversy in 2011 after he and another teenager, both driving expensive cars, attacked a couple who reportedly blocked their passage, while the victims’ child looked on.
In another scandal involving the offspring of China’s wealthy elite, the son of a police chief in 2010 tried to use his father’s status to avoid any consequences for a fatal car accident.
After running over a student in the northern province of Hebei, Li Qiming shouted: “Sue me if you dare. My father is Li Gang!”
He was later sentenced to six years in prison.
The case of Li Tianyi comes in the wake of the corruption trial of former Communist Party bigwig and Chongqing leader Bo Xilai, who denied charges that he embezzled $4.3 million.