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China celebrity’s son pleads not guilty to rape

August 29, 2013

BEIJING (AP) — The teenage son of a well-known Chinese military singer has pleaded not guilty to alleged gang rape, in a case that has focused attention on what the public often sees as spoiled behavior among the children of China’s elite.

The state-run Beijing News reported Thursday that Li Tianyi, 17, told a court in Beijing that he was drunk and passed out during the February attack, that he never beat or had sex with the victim and that he could remember little of the night in question. The trial is closed because Li is a minor, and the newspaper did not say how it obtained details of the proceedings.

Li is the photogenic, baby-faced son of Li Shuangjiang, a celebrity military singer famed for crooning anthems for the People’s Liberation Army and starring in television galas. His trial, along with four co-defendants, opened Wednesday to a flurry of local media coverage.

The elder Li has often been referred to in the past as a “general” as a title of respect, although he is a civilian member of the PLA.

Uncharacteristically for China, lawyers for both Li Tianyi and the victim released public statements about the case during the weeks running up to the trial, apparently seeking to form public opinion, which can indirectly sway proceedings by influencing the Communist Party officials who control the courts.

Li’s lawyers sought to lay blame for the incident on a Beijing bar for letting underage teens drink heavily. The victim’s lawyers released a statement saying she had been threatened not to come forward about the attack.

The rape case isn’t the younger Li’s first brush with the law. He was sentenced to a year in detention in 2011 as a 15-year-old for attacking a couple over a minor traffic dispute and threatening onlookers in a case that attracted widespread attention.

The children of China’s wealthy and politically connected are routinely mocked on public networking sites for their sense of entitlement and wasteful spending.

Update hourly