And Finally

Us and them

Powerful children of the elite think they can get away with murder, literally

Us and them

China’s hottest new catchphrase

“Go ahead and sue me if you dare, my dad is Li Gang” is the phrase still enraging millions of Chinese netizens. It comes courtesy of Li Qiming, whose car had just knocked down two girls on a university campus in Hebei. One of the victims subsequently died.

Li did not stop and continued to drive to the female dormitory to drop off his girlfriend. Finally security guards and students blocked his path, demanding that he get out of the car.

The driver’s indifference, plus the fact that his father, Li Gang, is a local bigwig in the public security department, ensured that the story became a widely interpreted event.

Netizens were soon swamping the various social networking pages where information on Li junior was available online, and devoting themselves to the type of “human flesh searches” that we have talked about before (WiCs 5 and 22).

It certainly added grist to the mill that Li senior was a local official. Soon he was being accused of unexplained wealth; more than enough, apparently, to own five houses in his hometown. Even Hebei University was coming in for flak, reputedly for leaning on students not to talk to the media about the incident.

Li Qiming and his father, on the other hand, were soon giving tearful interviews on state television, insisting on their remorse. “My stand is very clear,” Li Gang told CCTV. “I will not shield my child. As for my child’s education, as a father I failed. I am very sad, very guilty and very ashamed,” he wept.

But many bloggers were not convinced, seeing it as an effort to finesse the public mood.

The relatives of the deceased were also critical: “Their appearance on TV looks more like they are trying to rouse public sympathy,” the brother of the dead student told the Beijing Times. Chinese artists picked up on it too, including activist Ai Weiwei, who has produced a video featuring the father and brother of the victim. It keeps cropping up online, despite the censors’ best efforts.

The incident once again exposes a growing social divide in China. Children of the political elite and super-rich seem to think they are above the law (a trend first mentioned in WiC18, in the case of Hu Bin, who also ran someone over in his car). “Lots of people are like this now,” one relative in the recent case complained.

But Xinhua insisted that there would be no special treatment, reporting the view of a “high-ranking official” that bureaucrats are “always required to discipline their spouses, children and subordinates, no matter how important their post is or how busy they are.”

Keeping Track: It‘s one of the most hotly watched court cases in China. Readers of WiC will recall in issue 84 we looked at how drunkdriver Li Qiming infamously ran over a student and then called out tauntingly My father is Li Gang”. Dad was a local deputy district police chief in Hebei and the implication was that children of the powerful could (literally) get away with murder. But this sparked an angry internet and media backlash that roused the attention of senior authorities. Li Gang’s son could now no longer be seen to escape justice and this week Li Qiming admitted to responsibility for the student’s death in court. He faces three to seven years in jail.(Janaury 28, 2011)

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