From “alleged gang rape” to “taking turns having sex” - the changing phrases in Chinese official media reports on a criminal case involving the teenage son of a famous PLA general are angering many internet users.
The high-profile case is about to go to court in a closed trial. But many people are concerned about how fairly it will be conducted.
The 17-year-old son of PLA general and famous singer, Li Shangjiang, along with three other teenagers and an adult, were arrested on suspicion of gang-rape in Beijing in February. Their arrests came just a few months after Li’s son was released from a reform centre for assault and driving without a licence.
The official China News Agency reported on Thursday that “Li’s son, together with four others took turns… having sex with a woman”, a sharp contrast with previous reports alleging the woman had been “gang raped”.
Changes in the wording of the reports have prompted fears that influential people connected with the accused might be interfering in the case, as the new wording may imply that there was no force involved during the sexual intercourses. In China, the government sometimes forces the media to publish scripted official reports on sensitive subjects.
“If a gang rape can be called 'taking turns having sex,' then killing can be called terminating someone’s life, drug dealing can be called providing addictive food and gambling can be called entertainment with rewards,” said the news portal ifeng.com in a blog.
Responding to the wide-spread online scepticism, Beijing police on Friday reconfirmed Li Shangjiang's son "was 'alleged for gang rape', not 'taking turns having sex'", according to a report by The Beijing News published on its official microblog account.
But despite authority's clarification, “taking turns to have sex” has become the most frequently mentioned phrase on China’s biggest microblog Sina Weibo. It has been discussed over 240,000 times as of Friday afternoon. This shows how strongly public feels about bad behaviour by children from privileged backgrounds.
“The key issue is because the parents of the suspect are celebrities who are powerful and influential, people are concerned about whether their children will receive the same treatment as ordinary people,” one blogger said.
On Thursday, Chinanews also reported that the defence lawyer for Li’s son had resigned - although the lawyer has not said why.
Two years ago, Li’s son, then aged of 15, drove a BMW without a licence and hit another car. He then assaulted a couple in the other car and was reportedly heard shouting: “Who will dare call the police?”