Six people, including three businessmen, have been arrested in Zhejiang province over a prostitution ring involving school girls who were recruited to provide sex to officials and rich clients.
Yongkang police said yesterday they launched a crackdown on the ring last month and 10 people had been implicated, including a municipal legislator.
The prostitution ring had apparently been operating since February last year and people were asking why it took so long to expose the abuse.
The arrests came less than a week after Yongcheng city police in Henan province detained a former Communist Party official on suspicion of raping underage girls.
Li Xingong, who was deputy party head in Yongcheng, was accused of sexually assaulting more than 10 girls, according to a tersely worded press release at the weekend.
Mainland media, citing parents of some of the victims, reported that Li might have assaulted as many as 100 schoolgirls, some as young as 10. The public has since been clamouring for more information.
But Yongcheng police yesterday refused to give further information about the girls, most of whom were abused in Li's car.
Raping underaged girls, specifically virgins, has become a growing problem on the mainland in recent years, as more and more officials and wealthy people subscribe to the superstition that having sex with a virgin can advance their careers or lead to greater prosperity.
To make matters worse, under a loophole in the legal system, perpetrators are often tried for soliciting a prostitute who is a minor, rather than for rape, allowing them to avoid a more severe punishment. The loophole has been blamed for perpetuating the problem.
Under Chinese law, the maximum punishment for soliciting a prostitute who is a minor is 20 years, while raping a minor can bring the death sentence.