Court hearings held behind closed doors amid tight security

The trial of 14 Chinese nationals accused of organizing a sex-party between hundreds of Japanese tourists and Chinese prostitutes near the anniversary of Japan's invasion of China has begun in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai, RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services report.

Police formed a tight security cordon around the Zhuhai Intermediate People's Court on Friday as the trial opened. The sex party sparked widespread public shock and shame, and the authorities appear anxious to avoid giving focus to anti-Japanese protests during the court hearings.

All of the defendants were Chinese, and they were charged with organizing prostitution. The lack of proceedings against the Japanese tourists who were involved has given rise to questions and angry reactions from the Chinese public, especially visible on Internet chatrooms and bulletin boards.

A verdict was expected Saturday. The defendants face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The case has embarrassed officials in both Beijing and Tokyo. The two close trading partners have shown signs of growing diplomatic solidarity in the face of the North Korean nuclear crisis.

The two-day orgy at the five-star Zhuhai International Conference Center Hotel, in the southern province of Guangdong in September, involved about 400 Japanese tourists and 500 Chinese prostitutes, according to local media reports at the time.

The sex-party ended Sept. 18, the 72nd anniversary of the start of Japan's occupation of China's northeastern provinces.

While the authorities have condemned the orgy, the official response has been muted to avoid fanning anti-Japanese sentiment�already running high after the death in August of a man who came into contact with five containers of lethal mustard gas left behind by Japanese troops in the northeastern city of Qiqihar.

Japan has offered to pay the relatives of the dead man, and those who were injured by the gas, what it calls �sympathy money,� but it regards the question of official war reparations as closed since the 1972 Sino-Japanese Treaty of Cooperation and Friendship.

Many in China feel that Japan has made insufficient reparation and apology for its actions during World War II.#####


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