After assaulting a fellow student last year, a group of three Chinese teenagers studying in the US received prison sentences on Wednesday ranging from 6 to 13 years.
The main incident took place last year on March 30 in Rowland Heights, California, where then-18-year-old Yiran “Camellia” Liu was stripped, beaten and tortured by her schoolmates.
The suspected gang ringleader Yunyao “Helen” Zhai received the harshest sentence at 13 years, followed by Yuhan “Coco” Yang with 10 years, while Xinlei “John” Zhang was treated to a lighter sentence of 6 years for his less active role in the attack, reports the LA Times.
The three had previously served a year in jail after bail was set at $3 million each on June 18. Both the attorneys of Yang and Zhai denied that their clients were leaders in the attack, and requested psychologists for the women.
Reportedly, the violence was induced by a range of petty quarrels over a restaurant bill, boy troubles, and social media mockery of Zhai’s hometown Shanghai.
“Just slow it down and don’t hit her so hard, and we can do it a longer stretch of time,” Zhai was quoted as saying during the attack, according to Liu’s testimony.
But in court, the newly repentant Zhai offered a regretful statement:
I’ve heard that I’m hated here and in China, and I probably deserve to be viewed that way.
They [Zhai’s parents] sent me to the U.S. for a better life and a fuller education. Along with that came a lot of freedom, in fact too much freedom.
Here, I became lonely and lost. I didn’t tell my parents because I didn’t want them to worry about me.
Meanwhile, Yang’s statement warned fellow Chinese families against sending their children to live alone overseas to be “parachute kids”:
This is a wakeup call for the ‘parachute kid’ syndrome. Parents in China are well-meaning and send their kids thousands of miles away with no supervision and too much freedom. That is a formula for disaster.
The gang’s sentences were given out by LA County Superior Court Judge Thomas C. Falls, who compared the case in an earlier hearing to Lord of the Flies.
In addition to the incident with Liu, Zhai and Zhang were linked to another attack at the Diamond Bar mall occurring just three days earlier, featuring a number of other teenaged attackers who have since either confessed or fled the country.
The court case has raised concern about home-stay programs offered to Chinese students in the US, an industry that reportedly suffers from lack of regulation.
According to the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, California was home to some 15,000 foreign high-schoolers in 2014, more than 9,200 of which were Chinese.
“If he’d never left my side, that would have been better,” lamented Zhang’s father to court reporters.