Violation of Law or Material for Gossip?

Shuyao Kong ’13
Staff Writer

Trigger warning: This article contains mentions of rape and sexual assault.

Compared to the gang rape and the resulting mass protest in India last December, the recent gang rape case in China, which involves a teenage son of well-known Chinese army general Li Shuangjiang, famous for his renditions of patriotic songs on television, unfolds more like a farce. The public seems to be more interested in how the suspect is charged – rumor has it that he will be charged with rape rather than gang rape since he was the first rapist – rather than the welfare of the victim, exposing a deeply rooted patriarchal mindset that ultimately undermines women’s rights.

Most commentators believe that Li’s case has sparked public anger for two major reasons. First, this gang rape case isn’t Li Tianyi’ s first felony. Back in 2011, he was sent to a juvenile facility for a one-year detention for driving without a license and then savagely beating up a couple over a traffic dispute. Second, Li Tianyi’s father, Li Shuangjiang, is famous for his “red songs” from the Cultural Revolution and enjoys great political privilege for praising the Party and proletariat class, which makes Li Tianyi’s actions all the more reprehensible.

However, I hold a different opinion from most commentators. I believe that from the public reaction, it is clear that the Chinese in general are not so interested in the violation of law in this case, but more so in the scandal behind the crime. Most news on the Internet revolves around General Li’s second marriage with a woman 30 years younger than him, Li Tianyi’s previous felony and even a detailed report of how the gang of five seduced the woman and lured her to a hotel. There is no mention of the violation of human rights or women’s rights at all in the news.

What’s worse, some netizens have even casted doubt on the integrity of the woman, blaming her for going to a nightclub and getting drunk in front of five guys. I was shocked when I first heard such victim blaming. It eventually made sense to me, however, because in Chinese culture, women are blamed for losing their sexual purity, not men. It is their responsibility to have a “clean body” even in a rape case.

Such a mindset has a long history. In novels and anecdotes from ancient China, women are supposed to commit suicide or internalize the shame from being raped rather than stand up against their rapists. The reason is that publicizing such a case is a form of humiliation to not just themselves, but to their family and ancestors. For the past decades, there have been many reports about the harassment that young women and girls endure, but as always, the public and the government could not care less.

While the Chinese are still debating whether Li Tianyi should be charged for a 10-year or three-year sentence, news came out this Monday that the main suspect from India’s 2012 gang rape case committed suicide. It is not politically correct to draw any conclusions from his suicide, but it does mark victory for the people who took to the streets to protest the barbaric rape and murder of an innocent college girl.

It is ironic that people in India, a country that is often portrayed as hierarchal and disorderly by Party propaganda, united together against the rapist. Yet in China, people only saw the case as a mark against the privileged rather than a violation of women’s rights. The Indian case should serve as a good lesson of how to act when faced with such a situation. It should not be just accusations hurled at the privileged, but real action against the suspects, as well as real compassion toward the victim. Without these, I don’t see how we can avoid such tragedy in the future.

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