Public opinion no replacement for rule of law

By Liu Zhun Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-21 0:08:01

Sunglasses-covered Meng Ge, mother of Li Tianyi, a PLA singer general's son charged with gang rape, left the Haidian District Court in Beijing on Monday. Li Tianyi didn't show up. Li Tianyi, the 17-year-old son of Li Shuangjiang, a famous singer in the People's Liberation Army, is accused along with four others of raping a girl at a hotel in Beijing in February. His lawyer insisted that Li plead not guilty. (Photo Source:

Meng Ge, mother of Li Tianyi who has been charged with gang rape, made another complaint on Monday to the Office of Letters and Calls under the Ministry of Public Security, accusing bar manager Zhang Guangyao of pimping and extortion. She also filed a petition for an off-site trial and a protection order for the victim.

Li is accused of gang-raping a woman in a Beijing hotel in February. Along with another four suspects, he is now facing a tough trial, but his attorneys insist that he is not guilty.

As the son of a famous military singer couple, Li Tianyi has been given unparalleled attention since the case came into the spotlight. His rowdy behavior in recent years has also been unearthed by the media, portraying him as a recidivist.

But Li's mother continues to release information to try to turn the tables. According to her, the case involves prostitution and extortion. She claims her son was probably trapped and lured by Zhang Guangyao, the manager of the bar where the victim was asked to entertain Li and his friends.

Meng Ge's claim has been condemned as an attempt to help her son mitigate or even evade legal punishment. Public opinion, seeing this issue from the moral high ground, is concerned that her complaint will interfere with the legal process. In their minds, that Li committed such a crime is beyond doubt.

But those voicing opinions like the guardians of justice and law have forgotten one thing - filing a legitimate complaint is Meng Ge's legal right. The concerns over her status as a celebrity and ability to influence the trial are based on assumptions and show a lack of confidence in China's legal system. But the truth is, many people are unaware that it is they themselves who have interfered with the legal process.

Chinese public opinion is becoming so powerful that it can divert the attention of the whole of society freely. In recent years, China's legal system has been exposed to unprecedented pressure, most of which was imposed by public opinion. Controversial cases, once judged by the public to be unsatisfactorily handled, will have a severe impact on the legitimacy and credibility of the whole system.

However, it should be made clear that public opinion can never replace the rule of law. And the judicial process should try its best to avoid being held hostage by public opinion. A line must be drawn so that a balanced state will be formed - let public opinion be a constructive supervisor of law enforcement instead of an invader. Only when this is the case, regardless of who the defendant or the plaintiff is, will justice be guaranteed.

Posted in: Observer

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