Li Jun, an official with the Bureau of Civil Affairs in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province who was arrested in August for allegedly molesting at least three boys, is still being held by authorities pending trial as police continue to investigate the case, according to information provided by prosecutors Thursday.
Yet legal scholars and the families of the victims are worried that even if the perpetrator is brought to justice, the scanty penalties that can be imposed under existing laws may leave more boys in danger from sexual predators.
A first-grade junior high student, nicknamed Ah Xing, was allegedly anally raped by Li, who was later found to be in contact with more than 160 children under the age of 13 through QQ, a popular social networking Internet program, media reports said.
Li allegedly raped Ah Xing five more times over several months, giving him 200 yuan ($32) after each assault, Ah Xing’s cousin, surnamed Pan, told the Global Times Wednesday.
Ah Xing’s family called the police as soon as they found out about the assaults in June, and the police’s investigation led to two other victims under the age of 14.
Chen Yu, deputy director of the People’s Procuratorate of Liwan District, Guangzhou, which sanctioned the arrest of Li on August 10, told the Global Times Thursday that the police were still collecting evidence of the case, and declined to reveal more details.
Li allegedly baited boys through QQ and then sexually assaulted them after inviting them to play video games at his house after chatting, Pan said.
Pan said he learned that Li also gave the boys laptops, iPhones and other digital products as gifts.
The traumatic memory of the assault is very likely to haunt the boys for the rest of their life, Peng Xiaohui, a sexologist with Central China Normal University, told the Global Times.
"They may feel disgusted by sex even with their lawful partners in the future, which will greatly disturb their normal life," Peng said.
Li can be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison according to the existing criminal law even if convicted, no matter how many boys he has sexually assaulted.
This is a legal loophole, Zhang Wenjuan, deputy director with Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center, told the Global Times.
"A perpetrator who has anal intercourse with a boy under 14 will not be charged with rape but only with child molestation," Zhang said. "Because the victims of rapes stipulated in the Chinese Criminal Law are only females."
She also said that the current criminal law’s protection of male minors only covered boys under the age of 14, which means a perpetrator who has anal intercourse with a boy between 14 and 18 by force "will not be punished by the criminal law at all."
The punishment for such perpetrators won’t exceed 15 days of detention, according to Zhang.
"Even compared with female minors, whose legal protection is also weak, male minors have even less protection," she said.
According to the Criminal Law, only genital contact is sufficient to convict a perpetrator of the crime of rape when the victim is a girl under the age of 14, the maximum sentence of which is death penalty.
But perpetrators who force boys under 14 to have anal intercourse in private locations will only be sentenced to at most five years in prison, according to the law.
Shen Rongquan, then a 59-year-old teacher in Haining, Zhejiang Province, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2001 for molesting 14 male students under the age of 14 over a span of two years, in addition to paying 700,000 yuan in compensation, Yangcheng Evening News reported.
Yin Yongchun, a Peking University graduate who volunteered to teach in Guoyang, Anhui Province and later founded a school there, had been praised as a model young man by many media reports before people found out he had molested at least five male teenage students in 2005, the China Youth Daily reported.
Yin was later expelled from the school but was not convicted, according to the report.
Calling on changes
Unlike China, the criminal law of the US covers all minors under the age of 18, according to Zhang.
"Perpetrators who have sexual intercourse with boys or girls under 18 by force will be convicted of rape in the US," she said.
The lack of protection for male rape victims in the Chinese Criminal Law is partly due to Chinese people’s partial understanding of the word "rape," said Hong Daode, a criminal law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.
The majority of Chinese dictionaries define rapists as male and the victims of rape as female.
He added that legal professionals proposed a change as early as 1997, but the proposal was not adopted.
Hard to collect evidence
Although similar cases seem to have been increasingly exposed by media reports in recent years, Zhang said these cases are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Due to the pressure of traditional views, many victims choose not to call the police after being sexually assaulted, Zhang said.
Pan said the family has taken Ah Xing to travel in many cities to protect him from being harmed by people’s discussions of the case.
Because of the difficulties in collecting evidence for such crimes, many suspects are acquitted for lack of evidence, which also greatly discourages reporting.
"Because of lack of practical guidelines on fact-finding of such crimes and reluctance to risk handling cases in the wrong way, the police, prosecutors and judges tend to be more conservative in dealing with such cases," Zhang said.
While waiting for the trial of the case, Ah Xing’s family are trying their best to persuade more boys who may have been sexually assaulted by Li to provide their testimonies, Pan said.
"I hope the case could draw more people’s attention to the protection of juveniles, and the parents will educate their children in a more proper way," Pan said.