The biggest story on Chinese social media at the moment remains the allegations against a prominent Chinese lawyer who has been accused of raping his teenage “adopted daughter.”
At the end of last week, the Guangzhou-based South Reviews magazine published a bombshell report from a girl, given the pseudonym Li Xingxing, and her mother who claimed that 48-year-old Bao Yuming, a senior legal officer for Chinese telecom giant ZTE and the Jereh Group, had raped Li for more than three years, starting from when she had just turned 14, all while she was under his guardianship.
Li Xingxing’s allegations
Li’s mother said they had first met Bao in April 2015 through an online post he had made seeking to adopt a child.
Bao boasted graduate degrees from universities in both China and the United States. He was licensed to practice in both countries and reportedly even obtained US citizenship after working for a decade there.
Impressed by that resume, it only took Li’s mom six months to hand over her daughter to Bao.
Li says that she moved in with Bao who became her legal guardian and proceeded to rape her for the first time in Tianjin on New Year’s Eve.
She says that she reported the rape to local police and again reported the case to police in Beijing in early 2016. Police searched their home but nothing came of the reports.
Li says that they then moved to the Shandong city of Yantai where Bao tried to keep her quiet by installing cameras inside his apartment, forcing her to remove all of her contacts on WeChat, monitoring her calls with her mom, and keeping her confined to the flat.
At the same time, he continued the sexual abuse, raping her and forcing her to watch child porn.
In April 2019, Li tried to take her own life. Afterward, she was brought to police and revealed to them what had been happening to her inside of the apartment.
Yantai police opened an investigation into Bao, however, they dismissed the case by the end of the month.
Afterward, Li again tried to take her own life.
She filed another case against Bao in September but for months there was no update on the case. When Li went searching for answers, she says an officer told her that he would lose his job if he took on the case.
Bao’s story of “love”
Via an intermediary, Bao responded to Li’s allegations on April 11, telling a completely different tale to a reporter from South Reviews.
Rather than rape, intimidation, and imprisonment, Bao claims that he and Li were in love.
While he maintained that his initial intention had been to become an adoptive father to Li, he says that they instead developed a consensual relationship. He did not deny having sex with the teen but did deny controlling her freedom and raping her.
Bao says that he never actually adopted Li because, as a single man, he found that he could not legally do so. He claims that, in fact, they planned on joining together via marriage once she came of age (women have to be at least 20 in China). In the meantime, he took her to see his parents in late 2017 and bought her a diamond engagement ring in early 2019.
The way that Bao describes their relationship bears no similarity at all with Li’s description. He says that he never tried to trap Li in his home, claiming that she could come and go as she pleased, and often did.
He says that they would go long periods of time without seeing each other and that they mainly communicated on QQ messenger. The longest time they spent together was two months.
Bao also disputed the dates and timings of much of Li’s allegations, declaring, for instance, that while she claims they moved together to Yantai in 2016, he didn’t buy a home there until the summer of 2017 (he did not provide proof of purchase to South Reviews).
He portrays Li as emotionally unstable, claiming that when she called the cops, it was to get back at him for ignoring her messages while he was hard at work.
Bao also claims that Li would fake suicides in order to “achieve ulterior motives.”
Since relaying this version of the story, Bao has gone quiet.
On Chinese social media, Bao’s side of the story has been roundly rejected by most netizens who have accused the lawyer of planning to manipulate the legal system to rape a child.
“It is too easy to get away with pedophilia in this country,” writes one Weibo user.
Others have argued that just because Bao was “in love” that doesn’t make this situation right.
“You say you were in love with her. Did she have any choice but to be in love with you?” writes another netizen.
While there are also some Chinese netizens calling Li a “sugar baby,” far more aspersions have been cast at Li’s mother who some think is trying to use her daughter to win money from Bao.
Either way, this whole saga has at least resulted in an outpouring of support on Weibo for victims of child abuse and sexual abuse with the introduction of the viral “trigger warning” hashtag.
The hashtag is being used by hundreds of netizens to share their own highly personal stories of abuse and harassment, reminding survivors that they are not alone.
It has been viewed more than 260 million times.
The official response
In the wake of the initial South Reviews report, ferocious public anger fell upon police in Yantai who netizens accused of covering up Bao’s crimes after deciding last April that his actions “did not constitute rape.”
Responding to the outrage, China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security have sent over a joint supervisory team to oversee the investigation into Bao.
Bao resigned from his position at ZTE last week shortly after the allegations broke. His other employer, Jereh, has also terminated his contract.
What will come of all this?
If police continue not to discover enough evidence for the rape charge, it’s unclear what sort of penalties that Bao might face, if any.
The age of consent for sexual activity in China is 14 years old. One thing that both Bao and Li seem to agree on is that Li had already turned 14 when they first had sex.
It’s not clear what sort of evidence Li has for her allegations that Bao essentially kept her locked up for years. Meanwhile, if their relationship was really as free as Bao claims, it appears as though he should be able to produce ample evidence to that effect.
China’s child molestation laws are infamous for failing to properly protect children. Bao himself wrote a blog post about their inadequacies in 2011.