Beijing courts hear appeals in two landmark cases

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 1:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 November, 2013, 4:14pm

Beijing’s courts are hearing appeals by defendants in two of the capital’s biggest court cases of the year on Tuesday.

Shortly after 9am, the Beijing Intermediate People’s Court began hearing Li Guanfeng’s appeal against a rape conviction. Li, formerly known as Li Tianyi, the 17-year-old son of Major General Li Shuangjiang, was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison in September. Four other men received jail sentences for the rape. 

The family’s new defence lawyer Zhang Qihuai told the Beijing Times recently that the defence had prepared a video for the appeal hearing, explaining the events on the day in question in February that led to the rape of a part-time student in a Beijing hotel room. The defence team has not said whether Li will plead guilty.

The trial has highlighted the privileged treatment often reserved for the offspring of senior officials in China. Both of Li’s parents are well-known singers with the People’s Liberation Army. Two years earlier, Li gained notoriety when he attacked a couple after his unlicensed BMW crashed into their car and they tried to stop him from fleeing the scene.

Li received a relatively heavy sentence due to his not-guilty plea, the court said in its ruling. Criminal law scholar Hong Daode from the University of Political Science and Law in Beijing told China News Service that Li’s only chance for a reduction in sentence on Tuesday was to plead guilty, show remorse and pay damages to the victim.

The Beijing High Court is hearing the case of Han Lei, who is challenging a death sentence for killing a two-year old girl in a dispute over a parking space. In July, the 39-year-old man pulled the child from her stroller and slammed her to the ground in Daxing on the outskirts of Beijing. Han had just been released from prison last year, where he was serving a life sentence on theft charges.

The trial led to national soul-searching over the state of the nation’s society amid a remarkable increase in incidents of public violence. Han is seeking to have his death sentence for intentional homicide turned into a sentence for “causing death by reason of negligent actions”, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in jail.

For Wen Yunchao, one of the most prominent voices in China’s dissident community, the public interest in these sensitive cases has moved on.

“After the conclusion of the third plenum, all these trials will be handled one after the other,” he said. “What remains to be seen is whether around Christmas members of the New Citizen Movement will be included in the series of trials.” More than a dozen members of the group advocating civil rights and government transparency were detained in a crackdown earlier this year. The trial was postponed indefinitely last month.