Chinese Law Professor Condemned After Suggesting Rape Of Bar Hostess Is Less Serious Than A Girl From A Good Family

li-shuangjiang-li-tianyiMy friend and colleague, Professor Don Clarke, does terrific work over at his Chinese Law Blog and has an extraordinary story this morning. A Chinese Law Professor is in hot water after making a series of statements about rape that truly shock the conscience. Tsinghua Law prof Yi Yanyou comments on the rape case of Li Tianyi, the son of a famous singer who is accused of raping a bar hostess. Yi pointed out that raping a bar hostess is not as bad as a real rape of a nice girl from a nice family. The response was predicable and justified. What is astonishing is that Yi doubled down on his theory of different categories of rape victims when people objected.

The controversy began with a member of the new Red Aristocracy, a class of privileged Chinese who go to the best schools, live in luxury, and run the country under an authoritarian government. Li is the son of a famous singer with the rank of general in the People’s Liberation Army (shown here on Chinese television singing with his Dad). He is an example of this elite class of spoiled and usually protected young Chinese aristocrats and that sense of privilege was evident in his criminal conduct. While Li was too young to drive, he and a friend were speeding around in luxury cars in 2011 when he found himself delayed by a middle aged couple in Beijing. He jumped out of his BMW and his friend jumped out of his Audi to beat the couple in front of witnesses. He was quoted as warning the common Chinese bystanders “Don’t you dare call the police.” Someone didn’t listen. Li was given just a year in jail, but he was prosecuted.

After getting out of jail, however, Li returned to his prior wild ways. Within six months, he was accused of participating in the gang rape of a bar hostess in Beijing. His original lawyers quit. According to this report, his first lawyer simply said “he’s unable to fulfill the client’s demands.” His second lawyer later resigned by saying “there are some reasons that are inconvenient and unable to be spoken”.

That is when Professor Yi Yanyou (易延友), a professor at Tsinghua Law School and the head of its Evidence Law Center, stepped forward to support such a claim. He declared that “raping a bar hostess is less harmful than raping a woman of good family.” When that comment produced an outcry, he doubled down: “It does more harm to rape a woman of good family than to rape a bargirl, a dancing girl, an escort or a prostitute.” Professor Clarke notes that this view goes back a long way in Chinese culture which distinguished rape from “illicit sexual intercourse” depending on how the victim was viewed.

220px-Z-ARCH-16Li reminds me of Harry Thaw, the son of the Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron William Thaw, Sr. Coming from one of the wealthiest families in the country, Thaw had a dangerous combination of money and mania. He seemed to love beating and raping woman, particularly prostitutes. His family always protected him. Like Li, it was his mother who appeared at each crime to rescue her son. As for his father, he has reportedly taken ill after being accused of lying about the age of his son to try to get a more lenient sentence. Despite any sign of intelligence, he went to Harvard where his debaucheries and crimes led to his expulsion. This include chasing a cab driver down the road with a shotgun. He eventually graduated up to the murder of renowned architect Stanford White in 1906. Like Li, Thaw lived the life of privilege and viewed ordinary citizens as little more than props for his personal enjoyment.

The criminal record of Li captures perfectly not only the rise of an aristocracy in the heart of Mao’s Communist regime but also the power of the social media even in China where the government continually tries to control and block it. The image of a Chinese playboy racing around Beijing in his BMW and beating drivers in his way captures the class separation in the worker’s paradise.

As for Professor Professor Yi Yanyou, his relativistic view of the law seems to fit perfectly with the times in China. Fortunately, there remain many in China who view the law as advancing something a bit more inspiring than enforcing social conventions and class distinctions.

18 thoughts on “Chinese Law Professor Condemned After Suggesting Rape Of Bar Hostess Is Less Serious Than A Girl From A Good Family”

  1. Reblogged this on Hãy Cứ Dại Khờ and commented:
    This is the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a week! This professor is so uneducated! What is your title for? If you cannot even understand the basic foundation of law, which is based on equality, how can you be a Law Professor?

  2. He still has his job, as a law professor? As one that guides and shapes the young? Amazing.

  3. IMO, this isn’t any different than that juror who believed trayvon martin caused his own death. all evil originates from the same spirit.

  4. this might not be far off from many Americans, including women, who often blame the rape victim for being where she shouldn’t have been or wearing what she shouldn’t be wearing. Regardless of who says such things, their ignorance and self-righteousness is what guides them; after all, they wouldn’t be successful if their lives weren’t deserving of superior treatments.

  5. ” … it’s a rather uncomfortable high horse to ride.” (Juliet N.)

    Well said

  6. Juliet, The contingency system is certainly flawed. Of course, good cases provide an opportunity for poor folk to get good representation. I see nothing wrong w/ that. However, I have seen many poor folk, w/ criminal backgrounds and only a decent contingency case, get good representation. Actually, there are some damn good criminal defense attorneys who also do plaintiffs work. And, many of their clients come from the criminal side of their practice. I’ve worked opposite a very good criminal/ plaintiffs attorney who fits this profile many times. He does right by his clients. Costs can be deferred to make it more equitable for poor clients.

    What does happen is a poor person, w/ a good contingency case, ends up w/ some ham n’ egger barrister. We can thank television ads for that. That’s too bad.

  7. Juliet, As I said, regarding criminal prosecution in the US, there is a lot of hypocrisy. We are better than China, but certainly we are also flawed. Having worked in both civil and criminal spheres, I find the civil system, while certainly much less than perfect, more just than our criminal system. A poor person can get superb representation in our civil process. In the criminal process, not so.

    1. That has not really been my experience. One can get good representation if one has a really good contingency case, and nothing appalling in one’s background, and if one presents well in court or mediation. Otherwise, not so much. There are still fees for depositions, videographers, transcripts, filing fees, expert witness fees. It’s pretty well stacked against the poor.

  8. I wish I could believe that the vast majority of authorities, here and around the world, didn’t agree with Professor Yi Yanyou’s, snobbish views, but the evidence that they do, whether they express it out loud or not, (or are even actively aware of it), is regularly displayed all around us, and not just with the issue of rape.
    It’s only on a rare occasion that a person of privilege is encountered who doesn’t “view ordinary citizens as little more than props for their personal enjoyment.”
    If that single haughty misconception could be turned on its head, the world would be a far more sensible place.

  9. Juliet, How else would you propose calculating economic damages for a plaintiff? In a criminal case, we all agree that what this prof said is an anathema to all we believe.

    The adjudication of a criminal case should not depend on the social status of the defendant or the victim. We are hypocritical in that regard, because that does occur. More so from the victim end. Victims of lower economic status too often get the short end in our criminal system. However, in the penalty phase of a criminal trial, the defendant’s criminal and social background is factored in when a presentence investigation is done. We don’t treat first offenders like lifetime criminals.

    Returning to the civil venue. In the liability phase of the trial, it’s just the facts ala criminal trials however w/ a preponderance of evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt being the burden of proof The civil system is probably more equitable than the criminal end because the state doesn’t decide who gets to file suit, the plaintiff and their attorney do. And, contingency makes good attorneys available to victims that are poor. But, when you get to the damages phase, it’s about money. If a successful actor has their career ended by a negligent act of a doc, driver, etc. they have lost more money than a waitress. That’s just a fact. The pain and suffering award does not, or should not, take into account the income loss. That’s where the scales can be balanced.

    1. Nick: I’m not saying I know a better way. What I meant was how we measure the value of a person in our legal system is not that different. So, despite the fact that we are outraged by the professor’s statement — and I was — it’s a rather uncomfortable high horse to ride.

  10. Short will be the life expectancy of any Chinese populist rising in opposition to their shiny new Meritocracy Class. Such a person would certainly be accidentally squished by a speeding Mercedes.

  11. What an idiot. This professor needs to spend some time talking with rape victims of all kinds to see the error in his ways. Disgusting.

  12. Not that I agree, because I don’t. However, in the U.S., we calculate damages in civil suits by using the person’s financial value as a worker. How is the professor’s statement so different?

  13. Bron and Mike,

    Excellent points…. What gets into the folks that says things like this….oh my the times we live in….

  14. I have been musing about the return of feudalism for some time. It seems in China it has become an accepted fact among the privileged. I knew that those Maoists I knew in the 60’s were full of it. I wonder what they think of the “Glorious Chinese Revolution” today?

  15. A prostitute, running naked down the street is not a candidate for rape.

    Force is force and should not be tolerated.

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