Shaanxi legislator 'paid 13-year-old girl for sex'
A local legislator in Shaanxi province has been arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old girl, local authorities confirmed.
Zhang Zhihong, 53, who runs a car sales firm in Weinan and is a People's Congress deputy at city and district levels, had been charged with paying the girl for sex at a hotel on May 25, China News Services reported.
Weinan police said Zhang had procured the girl, a second-year junior high school pupil, through two men. The girl was lured to the hotel by two other men on the same day.
Zhang was arrested on Saturday and had been removed from his posts, the report said. Police refused to disclose further details but confirmed that Zhang was the suspect under investigation.
The case has raised concern among lawyers and internet users, who have called for the charges to be upgraded to rape rather than hiring an underage prostitute.
On the mainland, the sentence for procuring a prostitute who is a minor is at least five years in prison. The rape of a minor, on the other hand, can result in a death sentence. There have been calls from national legislators to abolish the former crime to ensure fair protection to all girls.
Officials who are caught paying for sex with children are often charged with child prostitution offences that carry more lenient penalties.
In 2009, seven people - including four government officials in Guizhou - were found guilty of sexually assaulting girls under the age of 14. But they were charged under child prostitution laws and sentenced to between seven and 14 years.