THE BLOG
11/03/2011 11:31 am ET Updated Jan 03, 2012

Sex Assault Victims Suffer Twice in China

Women who have been raped, sexually violated, or forced to be sex slaves face persecution, not justice, from the authorities in China.

Li Hao, a former firefighter and CPC cadre in Luoyang, Henan province was found guilty in a sex dungeon murder case this September. He had dug dungeons in a local compound, where, over the past two years, he kept a total of six young women aged 16 to 24, who used to work in karaoke clubs or nightclubs. Li killed two of the women and buried them in the dungeons.

The six women were forced to be his sex slaves. Meanwhile, they were forced to be online porn performers and sex workers to earn money for him. Obviously, under such harsh and frightening conditions, being dependent on their kidnapper for survival, some of the women developed serious Stockholm syndrome. One girl escaped while she was forced into sex work outside the dungeon and reported the situation to police.

Southern Metropolis Daily reporter Xu Jiguang was threatened by two local authority officials not to report on this case, on suspicion of "leaking state secrets," when he was investigating the case in Luoyang. Then the surviving four women were put in criminal detention, for suspected of participation in Li Hao's murder of the two other women. They are still in custody.

In May, Zhou Qin, a female teacher in Bijie Ashi Middle School, Guizhou province, was raped by Bijie Ashi Town Land and Resources Department Director Wang Zhonggui. When she reported this to the police the following day, she was dismissed on the grounds that sex with a condom was "not rape." Before the rape, she had been ordered by the school principal to toast government officials at a banquet and become intoxicated. This is very common in schools nowadays in China -- not to mention in government departments and private sectors: young female staff are "invited" to toast or to "accompany" male guest officials. I have seen this happen myself to former classmates who are now teachers.

Police and other government officials tried very hard to persuade Zhou Qin to settle the rape privately for both sides' sakes, instead of seeking justice. Zhou Qin finally had to disclose her experience on an online forum, asking the public for help. This case stirred up public outrage at the conduct of the police authorities on the Internet. The media started to cover the story in July. Without the pressure of public opinion, Wang Zhonggui would not have been detained two months after committing the rape. Whether Zhou Qin will receive justice in court is still unclear. But, under official pressure, she now refuses interviews with the media.

A similar case happened in Jiangsu province. Wang Yan, a beautiful physical education teacher in Wuxi Professional College of Science and Technology, was often forced by college leaders to attend banquets to please official guests. She was raped twice in January 2010 by a restaurant owner who came from the same hometown as, and was a former student of Zhang Ziwen -- the head of her department -- and maybe another unknown person too.

This occurred after a banquet organized by Zhang Ziwen. Wang Yan and her family kept silent to protect her reputation. But she broke down and committed suicide on August 8, 2011, days before her schedule wedding. Zhang Ziwen, who forced Wang Yan to attend banquets and possibly assisted in the rape, and the rapists, whose names are still unknown, are all still free and unfettered. The public had no knowledge of this until her fiancé posted the case on an online forum, which led to media reports.

Indeed, according to Article 236 in the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China, those guilty of rape should be sentenced to three to ten years in jail. But the legal system is biased in favour of power and men on these cases.

In the first case, the kidnapper, Li Hao, is a CPC member, a party cadre, and the victims are probably sex workers whose business is not protected by Chinese law. This illegal status puts sex workers in an extraordinarily vulnerable situation. When their rights are violated, it can even be better for them to remain silent -- because, if they speak out, the legal system will punish them before the violator has been caught. Six women, who all came from local districts, disappeared while they were working.

The first disappearance happened two years ago. But, shockingly, there is no information showing that the police were even aware of the disappearances before the escaped girl's report. Another dungeon sex slavery case happened in 2010 in Wuhan, Hubei province. Two girls were confined in one girl's neighbour's dungeon for almost a year. Every time the girls' families asked police how the investigation was going, they got the same response: "no progress."

Furthermore, the threats made to Xu, the journalist, reveal the deeper reason for the detention of the four surviving women: to keep them away from the public, and prevent them from releasing more information on the case -- to save face for the CPC and the Luoyang government. Although the survivors are also, in a sense, victims of the sex dungeon killings, their urgent need for professional psychological care is not a concern for the authorities.

Forcing young and beautiful female subordinates to please powerful guests has become a hidden rule across the country. Schools cannot escape this hidden rule. Attractive female staff are presented by their employers to guests as 'eye candy' and are obliged to get drunk to please them. Those men who are in higher positions are so ambitious that they see women as the second sex, merely to be used.

Many of these cases involve alcohol or date-rape drugs, and the sexual assault happens while the victim is at a social occasion. The essential questions are: what is the role of the women's employers, and the institutions the women are working for? What do they do when their female subordinates are intoxicated? Are they the real directors of date rape? If indeed they do bear responsibilities for their young female staff, why are none of them brought to justice?

Another ironic, but sadly common phenomenon is that when a victim has reported a sexual assault to police, seeking justice, hoping for the violator to be punished by the law, if the violator is powerful or backed by someone important, the victim will be pressured to solve the problem quietly, mostly to save face for the violator and related parties.

It is difficult and frustrating for the victim to insist on justice, as the court usually won't stand for it. Bringing public opinion to bear can force the authorities to change a little, but not enough. Most victims never receive full justice. Some even lose their lives as the price of resistance. They are still suffering twice.