The ugly rich

Chinese students in US court for kidnap and torture crimes

The skyline of downtown Los Angeles and the 101 Hollywood Freeway, a busy commuter route, is pictured from Mulholland Drive

Chinese student crime shocks LA

When China’s fu’erdai or ‘second generation rich’ are in the headlines it’s almost never good news. High-speed car races, fatal crashes, rape and obnoxious public comments are some of recent scandals they have been involved in.

Now, it appears, kidnap and torture can be added to that list too.

Last week it emerged that six Chinese teenagers studying in Pomona, California are being tried for a horrific attack on a fellow female student, Liu Liran. According to state prosecutors, the main defendant Zhai Yunyao and her boyfriend accused Liu of cheating on their friend. So Zhai and a group of friends bundled her into the back of a car and drove her to a public park where they stripped, beat, and burnt her with cigarettes. The attackers allegedly also cut off Liu’s hair, forced her to the ground and made her eat sand while filming the assault.

The victim reported the attack and when charges were brought, the father of one of the accused flew to America and allegedly tried pay a witness not to testify – a crime he is now also standing trial for.

Xinhua described the crime as “sadistic” and said that any parents preparing to send their kids to study abroad should take the case as a “warning”. It also quoted the (Chinese-born) lawyer of one of the defendants as saying “parents do not understand the situation children are in when they go to study abroad… exchanges are usually focused on academic results, ignoring the psychological pressure their children are under and other aspects of emotional care and guidance.”

The reactions on Chinese social media have been more critical. “These rich people wanted a US education, now they are getting one,” wrote one weibo user. Another comment was equally scathing, picking up on the father’s bribery attempt: “In China their money would have settled everything, but in the US they will get what they really deserve.”

As readers of WiC will know, people who have inherited wealth and power have become a particular source of public anger in recent years. Li Tianyi, the son of two famous Chinese army singers, is a notorious example. The 19 year-old was sentenced to 10 years in prison for rape in 2013 (see WiC184).

High-profile scandals such as this have been so divisive that Xi Jinping has recently made the fu’erdai the target of an educational campaign. Speaking last month to the United Front Work Department, an agency that manages relations with non-Party members, the Chinese president said the children of the rich needed to “think where their money comes from and live a positive life”. China’s leader added that they also must develop a “greater sense of patriotism, innovation, dedication and respect for the law”.

The United Front is now working on a plan to “educate” the fu’erdai using a mixture of Confucian texts and theories from leading business schools. Adding to the campaign’s urgency, a statement on the organisation’s website that said 85% of the private enterprises in the country are family businesses, and that in the next 5-10 years, about 75% would be handed from one generation to the next.

“Morality and ability are not inherent, and the young and rich are capricious. The prophecy that family loses its wealth in three generations is not groundless,” the United Front pointed out.

According to Chinese media reports some provinces have already begun the teaching of similar courses.

Most recently authorities from Xiamen in Fujian have rounded up the heirs to 70 of the city’s biggest family-run businesses to attend a two-day seminar in Beijing. The richest attendees were the heirs to the fashion chains Anta and Septwolves and the average age was 27 years-old, Beijing Youth Daily said.

The participants recited Chinese classics and learnt from a Confucian expert how to combine traditional merits with business philosophy, the paper said.

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