Chinese police detain communist official over underage rapes


CHINESE POLICE have detained a Communist Party official for the rape of more than 10 underage girls, after microbloggers registered online outrage at what they saw as the latest abuse of power by the ruling elite.

Li Xingong, who was the party’s deputy director in Yongcheng city in Henan province, is accused of assaulting more than 10 girls, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The former cadre had confessed during his interrogation, it said.

“The local authorities have ordered swift and severe punishment on the suspect in accordance with relevant laws,” Xinhua said.

The authorities did not reveal the range of the victims’ ages, but pledged to release further details as the investigation continued.

Posts on the Sina Weibo microblog service drove much of the public outrage, and there had been a lot of online traffic about the case over the past few days. Li was named in many of these reports.

“Officials these days are all like this. It’s really terrible,” wrote one Weibo user.

There were other reports in local newspapers, such as the state-run Hangzhou Daily, which said Li had been caught in the act outside a school, without saying what the crime was.

Weibo has been a hugely successful platform for exposing the vagaries of the ruling elite.

The use of microblogging in China quadrupled in 2011 compared with the previous year, with almost half of all Chinese internet users taking to the near-instant service to gather news and spread views.

It is a challenge to stem the tide of Weibo, despite controls that force users to use their own names, and other restrictions.

Weibo was the main platform for public displeasure about the government’s apparent inactivity after the Wenzhou high-speed train crash last July.

But the government is intervening increasingly in the use of Weibo.

After briefly allowing free discussion online following the purge of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai and the naming of his wife, Gu Kailai, as a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, censors brought down the shutters.