China’s Princelings on Both Sides of the Law

Two current high-profile cases are once again focusing public attention on the lives and fates of China’s “princeling” class. Bo Guagua, the son of disgraced Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, is starting down a new academic path at Columbia Law School in New York after graduating one year ago from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. With his father’s trial imminent and his mother already serving a suspended death sentence, some observers predict this could be a new beginning for Bo, who has been mocked for his decadent lifestyle while in school abroad. From Foreign Policy:

Born in 1987, Guagua is a de facto member of China’s communist aristocracy — his maternal grandfather was a powerful general, while his paternal grandfather, Bo Yibo, held the rank of vice-premier, a higher position than his son, Bo Xilai, ever attained. Before his father incited the biggest political scandal to rock China in decades, Guagua lived a charmed life. At age 12, he enrolled at the elite Harrow School in London. The first Chinese national to attend the school in its nearly 550-year history, Guagua told a Chinese talk show host in 2009 that he studied Shakespeare, developed his oratorical skills, took up fencing, and became president of the equestrian club. He then went to Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics, and in 2010 he enrolled in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

It is not uncommon for Chinese princelings — the sons and daughters of top Chinese officials — to study overseas, but Guagua was unusually high profile. At Harvard, he lived in an apartment that rented for around $3,000 a month and drove around in a Porsche. According to the British newspaper Daily Telegraph, in 2010 Guagua helped organize a “China Trek” for his classmates; he arranged for them to meet senior communist leaders in Beijing and gave them a grand tour of Chongqing, complete with a police motorcade.

[…] There is an added benefit: studying at Columbia will enable Bo Guagua to keep his legal status in the United States without applying for political asylum, and allow him the distance to nurse and meditate on his grievances. “The political calamity that befell the Bo family could be the catalyst for Bo Guagua’s transformation from a dandified playboy to a man of political conviction,” says Chen Xiaoping, a New York-based China scholar. “Bo’s family tragedy might stoke his political ambition.” [Source]

Meanwhile, in Beijing, the 17-year-old son of two prominent army singers is about to go on trial for the gang rape of a young woman. Li Tianyi has been in trouble with the law before, and this time his parents are rallying to his defense amid an Internet uproar over his case. His mother has asked for an open trial, a rarity in such a high-profile case, so that she can offer a public defense of her son. From Tea Leaf Nation:

The latest twist in the high-profile rape case is the defense’s decision to request a public trial. Lawyer Lan He has claimed that the mother of the defendant, Li Qingdi, known by her stage name Meng Ge, has opted for a public trial, saying she plans to present evidence and reveal the truth.

“In the choice between privacy and truth, Ms. Meng Ge bravely chose the latter,” posted Lan on Sina Weibo – a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. “Meng Ge will submit a request for a public hearing, so that all the facts, evidence, and processes can be open. She accepts the supervision of society to remove the mystery and eliminate public misunderstanding concerning her family and the judiciary system.”

[…] By rejecting the prostitution claim [against the victim], the court has already showed a certain level of severity, perhaps in an attempt to “make an example” out of Li Tianyi. The privilege enjoyed by high officials and their relatives has been the subject of criticism, especially by netizens, who write angrily about the luxurious lifestyles of the rich and the impunity they enjoy in their crimes. A guilty verdict in the case could play a role in restoring some faith in the justice system and the government. [Source]

That’s Beijing Magazine has published a detailed and graphic account, pieced together from Chinese media reports, of the night that the alleged rape occurred, including allegations by Li’s mother that the woman involved was in fact the perpetrator:

Li now forced to defend himself in public, has allowed his lawyer Lan He to do most of his talking. Recently, in an interview with Legal Evening, Lan claimed that media reports have been purposefully ‘misleading,’ although he refused to comment on whether the details described were true.

On the other hand, Li’s mother Meng Ge, who has reportedly already fired two lawyers since the case became public, is now attempting to charge the Global Club’s manager Zhang for ‘organizing prostitution.’

[…] Meng has also claimed that she has “solid evidence” to back up her charges, which are likely to be revealed in the coming trial. “I have no intention to find excuses for my son. I’m just trying to present the truth.” She said. “If those young men were hoaxed, I hope the plotters will be punished so that no more teenagers will be harmed.”

Tian Canjun, the victim’s lawyer, has denied his client is is a prostitute and said that “she [has] never asked [Li] for money.” His client is “receiving psychological treatment” in Beijing now. [Source]

Read more about Li Tianyi, Bo Guagua and other Chinese princelings, via CDT.


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