By Katie Nelson
Image via China Daily
On May 14 it was reported that six elementary school girls had been kidnapped the week before by their principal and one other government official who allegedly brought the girls to hotels in Hainan province and sexually assaulted them. One of the six child victims has now told authorities that she was offered money for sex, according to the South China Morning Post.
According to police statements backed up by surveillance videos, four of the six girls who had gone missing from Wanning No 2 Primary School on May 8 were taken to a hotel in Wanning city with the principal, Chen Zaipeng, who was seen in video footage entering one room at night and leaving from another room the following morning.
Two of the other girls were reportedly taken to another hotel in the province’s capital Haikou by the government official, a man named Feng Xiaosong who works for the Wanning city housing authority.
It was also found on Thursday that one girl was allegedly offered 5,000 yuan (HK$6,300) in the hotel room by the school headmaster, surnamed Chen, after telling her if he wanted “it would only cost him 3,000 yuan to find a virgin to sleep with”, The Beijing News reported in a detailed analysis.
Both of the men have denied having “sexual relations” with any of the girls, aged between 11 to 13. The six girls involved initially told authorities that the men had “sexually molested – but not raped – them”.
On Tuesday, four of the minors’ forensic examinations were released on a police microblog “amid claim and counterclaim concerning the girls’ status as virgins”, reports China Daily.
The examinations, conducted on Monday by a medical expert from the Hainan Provincial Public Security Bureau and doctors from the obstetrics and gynecology department at Wanning People’s Hospital, concluded that the girls’ hymens were still intact.
The news caused uproar in the island province.
The girls’ parents refused to accept the results, and claimed that tests conducted by different experts at the same hospital on Friday had indicated genital bruising and that the girls’ hymens had been ruptured.
While many details of the story are still unclear, the scandal has caused national distress, especially among residents of Wanning city – 90 percent of whom don’t believe the results of the investigation, according to China Daily.
The case has also triggered heated debate, in the media and online, surrounding the definition of rape according to Chinese criminal law, which states that only nonconsensual vaginal intercourse between adults or genital contact with a girl fourteen years or younger constitutes rape.
According to the IB Times:
Having sex with anyone under the age of 14 was considered rape in China, consent or not, but the law was changed in 1997. Under this new law, with consent, even if a girl is under 14, the perpetrator may be allowed to go free as long as he claims not to know the girl is under 14. If, in addition, money is involved in the transaction, the perpetrator is usually prosecuted for “patronizing a prostitute,” which usually carries a sentence of five to 15 years in jail, instead of the far more serious crime of rape.
Only when a girl does not consent to sex is the perpetrator considered a rapist, a crime punishable by death in China. This is in sharp contrast with laws in most countries, where sex with someone under the age of consent is considered rape with or without consent, with the understanding that before that age, a child is not capable of legally giving consent.
Microblog users have also been criticizing the state media’s omission of the word “rape” in their reporting.
“Rape is rape, why call it ‘taking elementary school girls to a hotel’? Our media is so forgiving!” Weibo user 小鱼的褪色裤子 wrote. “If the editor-in-chief of a newspaper had a daughter in elementary school who came back after a whole night with vaginal trauma, would he simply say, someone took my daughter to a hotel room?”
“I called it when I saw newspapers kept saying, ‘a principal took students to a hotel room’. Hotel room was all over the media,” user 于立生 wrote. “They are leaving themselves wiggle room. Then I read the Xinhua [state-owned news agency] story and as expected, they are calling it ‘indecency with children’.”
Meanwhile in Hainan, all of the parents of the six girls have reportedly “disappeared” and are unable to be contacted, although they made statements earlier in the week.
“The city is very small and we should have found them very easily today, but surprisingly they are nowhere to be found,” a local reporter said to the Daily.