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Son of Chinese 'singing general' sentenced to 10 years for gang rape

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
September 26, 2013 -- Updated 0731 GMT (1531 HKT)
The BMW reportedly driven by Li Tianyi, the son of a Chinese army general, pictured after a 2011 road rage incident
The BMW reportedly driven by Li Tianyi, the son of a Chinese army general, pictured after a 2011 road rage incident
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Li Tianyi, 17, sentenced to 10 years in high-profile gang rape case
  • His four co-defendants received sentences ranging from 3 to 12 years
  • The son of a People's Liberation Army (PLA) celebrity known as the "singing general"
  • Case unleashed public outrage at behavior of China's "princelings"

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A Beijing court sentenced Li Tianyi, the son of a famous Chinese "singing general" in the People's Liberation Army, to 10 years in jail on Thursday over a gang rape that unleashed public outrage at the behavior of China's "princelings," or children of the political elite.

The Haidian People's Court sentenced Li, 17, and four other defendants to jail terms ranging from three to 12 years over the gang rape of a woman in a hotel room in February. Li, also known as Li Guanfeng, denied the charges, telling the court he was drunk and could recall little of the night in question.

He denied beating or having sex with the woman despite his four co-accused issuing guilty pleas by the trial's end, state media reported.

Lawyers for the accused argued in pre-trial hearings that the woman was a prostitute, and the matter should be tried as a prostitution matter, rather than a rape case. In handing down the verdict, the court said the evidence was "adequate" to uphold the rape charges.

Users on Chinese social media applauded the verdict, hailing it as a victory of justice over the infamous "taizidang," or "princelings," who are widely regarded as spoiled and corrupt.

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"The bastard is finally charged. God finally works," wrote a user called @Jiaxinglantianxiadezhiai on the popular Chinese micro-blogging service Sina Weibo.

However, others doubted that he would serve out his full sentence.

"After people stop closely watching this case, he will get out of jail immediately. It's always easy as long as you have money," posted one user called @Miya-Qiu.

Li -- the son of a PLA celebrity officer known as the "singing general" for his televised renditions of patriotic anthems -- previously made headlines in 2011 when he attacked a family in a road rage incident, threatened bystanders and dared them to call police.

The incident provoked an outcry when it came to light that he had 36 prior traffic violations for driving without a license. He was subsequently sent to a juvenile detention center for a year, and his father issued a public apology.

Li's mother Meng Ge, who is also a celebrity singer in the PLA, also came under under fire on social media after she blamed society for her son's behavior.

Public opinion has been mounting against the so-called princelings since an incident in 2010, when the drunk-driving 22-year-old son of a deputy provincial police chief fatally ran over a student and shouted: "Sue me if you dare! My father is Li Gang!" The phrase has since become synonymous with nepotism and corruption in China.

President Xi Jinping has launched a high-profile anti-corruption campaign in response to public discontent with corrupt officials, publicly rebuking PLA musicians following a series of embarrassing reports detailing their privileged lifestyles and exposing incidents of commercial exploitation of their positions.

The dressing down was accompanied by new measures, signed off by Xi and detailed in the PLA Daily, the official organ of China's armed forces, designed to curb the excesses of military musical troupes.

Xi's wife, the noted soprano Peng Liyuan, herself served in a PLA performance troupe.

CNN's Feng Ke contributed to this report.

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