Parents often refer to wastrel offspring as the ‘black sheep’ of the family. Li Tianyi, the son of two of China’s better known singers, seems to be a blacker sheep than most.
A little less than two years ago Li (who confusingly is also known as Li Guanfeng) was sent to a juvenile correctional facility for beating up a couple after their cars collided in an an affluent Beijing suburb (see WiC123).
Now, the son of the famous military singer Li Shuangjiang has been arrested in connection with the gang rape of a woman in a hotel in the capital city’s Haidian district.
Li’s alleged crime has reignited a debate about the behaviour and treatment of children born into privileged and well-connected families known as the ‘second-generation of officials’ (fu’er dai) in China.
Li’s name was changed to Guanfeng after he was released from the correctional facility last year, presumably to give him the chance of a fresh start untainted by his former record. His parents also seem to have intended to send him abroad to study this year, reports the Zhengzhou Evening News.
But on February 19 he was detained with four others. The police formally arrested him this week.
Meanwhile netizens outraged by Li’s behaviour have been carrying out investigations of their own.
One story doing the rounds is that the victim has already been offered various incentives such as an apartment and Beijing hukou (a residency permit granting access to educational and health services) if she drops the charges.
Other speculation among netizens – potentially corroborated by a clip of a television interview with Li’s parents in the past – is that Li is no longer a juvenile (officially heis 17) and so should be tried as an adult. This is important, as adult status will greatly impact the severity of any potential punishment.
Li’s mother Meng Ge – another famous military singer – then added to the general sense of opprobrium when she asked the public and the media to be more forgiving in their response to his case.
“Li’s mother should let the court judge the deeds of her son rather than stand up to beg for tolerance,” rapped one commentary on the People’s Daily website.
Individual netizens posted similar reactions, usually lamenting the privileges of the fu’er dai lifestyle. “Rich people can always roam outside the law. Laws and regulations are for poor people only,” complained one. Another wrote: “ Let’s face it this kid is never going to come of age. His parents will still be protecting him and saying he is a minor when he is 50.”
Li’s parents must be wondering where they went wrong with his upbringing. Given that both his father and his mother have lifelong military backgrounds, their household might have been expected to exude a stronger sense of discipline. But as netizens have also been discussing, the evident lack of a firmer hand looks bad for the People’s Liberation Army too.
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