Authorities in Beijing on Thursday handed a 10-year jail term to the son of two high-ranking People's Liberation Army (PLA) singers for his role in the gang rape of a woman, sparking further public anger over the behavior of the children of the rich and powerful.
Seventeen-year-old Li Tianyi was found guilty of taking part in the rape of an 18-year-old woman, in which four other men were also accused, in a Beijing hotel in February, officials from the Haidian district court told a news conference.
"The facts clearly show that the five defendants collectively used violent methods to force her against her will," court spokesman Fan Junzhong told reporters. "This amounts to their being guilty of rape."
"The Haidian district prosecutor's office ... charged the defendants because it was clear that rape had been committed, and that there was comprehensive evidence with which to charge them."
Tian Canjun, who represented the victim of the rape, who was identified only as "Ms. Yang," welcomed the verdict and sentence, saying it had improved the mental state of his client.
"There has been some improvement in her mood, but she's not completely recovered yet," Tian said.
"She still needs to receive another stage of treatment."
Li's sentence follows a string of fatal incidents involving the sons and daughters of powerful figures, many of whom have gone unpunished, and has underscored growing public anger over the behavior of elite children.
Li's father is celebrity patriotic singer Li Shuangjiang who, as dean of the music department for the PLA's Academy of Arts, is treated as a lieutenant-general, while his mother, Meng Ge, is also a well-known army singer who has tried to defend her son in public.
In 2011, Li was sent to a juvenile correctional facility after driving a BMW into another car in Beijing, beating up the couple inside, and taunting bystanders that calling the police would get them nowhere. His father made a public apology after the incident.
However, Li's lawyers told reporters on Thursday he planned to appeal what they called an "unjust verdict" based on delayed, verbal testimony.
"We will definitely appeal," Lan He, one of Li's defense team, said after the sentence was passed. "We have maintained [Li's] innocence from the start in our defense."
Of the five men accused of the rape, three apologized in court and their families made compensation payouts worth 450,000 yuan (U.S. $73,500) to the victim.
Li was the only one to deny the charge outright, saying he was drunk and had no knowledge of the incident.
Observers gathered outside the court to cheer the sentence, although some said it was too lenient.
Jiangsu petitioner Yu Nanzhe told RFA's Mandarin Service from outside the court that several dozen uniformed police had cordoned off the immediate area around the court building and that the area was also being patrolled by plainclothes police.
"I hadn't been there one minute before I was detained," Yu said. "Several of them came and snatched my things away from me and bundled me aboard a bus and took me away."
"Later, another 14 people were detained, and they have been releasing us one by one since noon, but there was one guy called Hu Daliao who hasn't been released yet. I don't know why," Yu added.
Li Tianyi's case has sparked widespread public anger, political observers said.
"I think this sentence is on the heavy side," Shenzhen-based political commentator and rights activist Zhu Jianguo said on Thursday. "I think they want to ... appease public anger."
"The fact that Meng Ge, Li Tianyi's mother, has been very involved in this case has made a lot of people angry," he said.
"I think that this shows you can't cover this up ... People aren't stupid," Zhu said. "They know what's going on."
The ruling Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, People's Daily, has warned in a recent commentary that if the offspring of China's political and financial elite aren't curbed, the result could be wider social discontent.
In October 2012, the chief of police in the northern city of Taiyuan came under fire amid allegations by a whistle-blowing blogger that his son beat up a traffic cop in front of onlookers, and that local authorities stopped the news from getting out.
In the best-known case outside China, a court in northern Hebei province sentenced the son of a high-ranking police officer involved in a hit-and-run road accident to six years in prison in January 2011, in spite of calls for a much harsher punishment after he caused the death of a female student.
Li Qiming's case brought him nationwide notoriety because of his defiant outburst to officials and angry witnesses to the incident: "Go ahead, sue me. My father is Li Gang!" he reportedly told them, referring to his father's position at the time as deputy chief of Baoding's Beishi district police bureau.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.