A comment by a Tsinghua University law professor that "raping prostitutes is less harmful than raping ordinary women" has sparked a widespread online backlash.
Yi Yanyou, director of the university’s Evidence Law Research Centre, was commenting on a highly anticipated criminal case involving the 17-year-old son of a PLA celebrity singer. The teenager, surnamed Li, has been accused with four others of gang-raping a woman in a Beijing hotel room in February. Li’s family had reportedly suspected the victim to be in the escort service and claimed she did not resist.
Yi wrote on his Sina microblog on Tuesday: “Underscoring the fact that the victim is an escort girl … is relevant because they tend to consent to sex more easily. In addition, raping escorts is less harmful than raping ordinary women.”
In another post, he later sought to revise his remark to: “Raping ordinary women is more harmful than raping escort girls in bars and nightclubs, and prostitutes.”
The comments were soon spotted by bloggers and internet users. Many of them said Yi's posts not only showed explicit support of the defendant, but also legal discrimination towards sex workers. Yi's Weibo page quickly drew tens of thousands of comments questioning his rationale.
“Every woman enjoys an equal right to safeguard herself from sex exploitation. Since when do the rights come with different rankings?” said one blogger.
Even the defendant's lawyer, Tian Canjun, was prompted to issue a public letter, criticising the law professor's remark as discrimination against sex workers.
“When people are subject to acts that seriously violate laws, [we] ought not to judge its social harmfulness based on the victims’ reputation, wealth and especially occupation,” Tian wrote on his microblog.
Apparently overwhelmed by the immense criticism, Yi on the same day wrote on his blog: “Echoing the ignorant public’s voice is much easier than speaking the truth” and “[I] do not expect the internet to be a platform of rational dialogue”.
On Wednesday, Yi deleted all posts related to this topic on his microblog account.