Outrage as Trial Begins

The court hearing of the son of a former police officer spotlights widespread nepotism by Chinese officials.

liqiming305.jpg A screen grab from a satirical rap video titled College Students Make Fun of 'My Father is Li Gang' shows Li Qiming in his car.

The high-profile hit-and-run trial of the son of a former police chief began Wednesday in central China, amid widespread public anger and calls for justice from the relatives of a woman who died in the accident.

"My family and I want justice," said Chen Lin, the brother of 20-year-old Chen Xiaofeng, who died in the Oct. 16 accident in Hebei province's Baoding city.

"The prosecution itself demonstrates that."

Chen Lin was speaking after the trial hearing of Li Qiming, which he attended alongside a group of students from Hebei University, where the accident happened, official media reported.

"There was a police cordon about 100 meters from the court ... and there were two lines of policemen standing along it," said China Economic Times reporter Wang Keqin, who was at the scene.

"The Chen family arrived at about 8 a.m. and went into the court buildings."

A former member of the Chen's legal team, Zhang Kai, said the prosecution was arguing that it was more than a simple accident.

"If you just lose control of the vehicle and run over a pedestrian then that is a traffic accident," Zhang said.

"But we thought Li showed evidence of intent because he must have known he was causing a danger to society by driving in that way."

Defiant shout

Li, 23, shot to notoriety online after he reportedly shouted "My father is Li Gang!" after plowing into two college students on the school's campus.

According to state prosecutors, Li was drunk when he hit the two women students.

"Li continued driving to drop off his friend at the university until being stopped by the university guards and angry students," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Chen Xiaofeng, 20, died later in hospital while Zhang Jingjing, 20, suffered a broken leg.

Li's defiant outburst to officials and angry witnesses to the incident, "Go ahead, sue me. My father is Li Gang!," sparked rage among Chinese netizens, along with a satirical rap song showing images from the accident.

Li Gang was the deputy chief of Baoding's Beishi district police bureau at the time.

Li was charged with causing death in connection with a traffic accident and stood trial at the Wangdu county court in Hebei on Wednesday, official media reported.

State prosecutor Xu Yongsheng called for a jail term of up to seven years, while Li's defense team said he had apologized and paid 460,000 yuan (U.S. $70,000) in compensation to Chen's family and 92,000 yuan (U.S. $14,000) to Zhang's family.

They said they would argue for a sentence of just three years, Xinhua said.

Rampant nepotism

Li's trial comes after photos and reports of the accident were widely circulated on the Internet, tapping widespread public anger over the privileged position enjoyed by the offspring of powerful officials.

"Li Gang has now become synonymous with being above the law due to government connections," according to a glossary on the trend-tracking website China Smack.

Experts say the habit of cronyism and nepotism is deeply entrenched in the ruling Communist Party, from the highest levels of leadership down to village level.

China has warned its officials to swear off expensive parties and gifts ahead of the traditional Lunar New Year holiday, which begins this week.

The ruling Communist Party's commission for discipline inspection has sent around a circular banning holiday gifts and expenses-paid trips, official media reported.

"Party officials must not accept gifts in any form," Xinhua news agency quoted the circular as saying.

Prohibited items and services include any that "could influence the fairness of official duty," such as attending banquets, and expenses-paid travel and entertainment, it said.

Reported by Luisetta Mudie.


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