Anger as top-ranking Communist general’s son denies Beijing gang rape

Li Tianyi, 17, is one of five accused of assaulting a woman in a hotel

The teenage son of a prominent Chinese general has denied the charge of gang rape, inflaming public anger in a case that has stirred resentment against the offspring of the political elite.

Li Tianyi, 17, is one of five accused of assaulting a woman in a Beijing hotel in February, according to state media. He has become the most prominent target of complaints that the sons and daughters of China’s top-ranked Communist Party officials can dodge the law.

Li’s father is General Li Shuangjiang of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who is a singer known for performing patriotic songs on television shows and at official events. Li’s mother, Meng Ge, is a famous singer in the PLA.

At a closed-door trial, Li said he was drunk and had no knowledge of the alleged assault, two Beijing-based state-run newspapers said on their microblogs.

Dozens of journalists as well as supporters of Li and the victim gathered outside the court in northwestern Beijing. Police officers dragged away one of Li’s supporters after she was seen talking to a reporter.

Li’s denial generated a torrent of criticism online. “The Li family continues to challenge the intelligence of normal people. They’re using despicable, rogue means to acquit Li,” said a microblogger. “If a heavy sentence is not imposed, it will not satisfy the people’s resentment.”

The case has dominated headlines for weeks, focusing attention again on China’s political aristocrats who are widely viewed as corrupt and above the law. It follows the dramatic trial of ousted former senior politician Bo Xilai, whose family’s lurid excesses were detailed by the court and lapped up on social media.

Li’s legal adviser, Lan He, told reporters that lawyers hoped for a fair trial. “Celebrities are also citizens and should not be held to ransom because of emotions,” he said in a question-and-answer session with bloggers on Tuesday.

“A moral judgment cannot replace justice.”