Chinese billionaire's 5-year sentence for child molestation sparks anger
Published: Jun 25, 2020 05:58 PM


A Shanghai court has recently sentenced a real estate tycoon to five years in prison for child molestation. The seemingly lenient verdict has immediately triggered a tempest of disapproval among Chinese public, and also sparked broad anger among Chinese legal experts who think the punishment was too light.

Wang Zhenhua, 58, former chairman of Chinese real-estate developer Seazen Holdings and founder of Future Land Development Holdings, was sentenced to five years in prison on June 17 at his first trial in Shanghai's Putuo district, one year after he was arrested for molesting a nine-year-old girl at a Shanghai hotel.

The case was heard in private taking the victim's underage into account. The evidence provided by the plaintiff showed that the girl suffered vaginal tearing.

Many Chinese netizens were strongly dissatisfied with the court's verdict, as an online survey by showed that more than 90 percent of 185,000 respondents said the five-year punishment was too lenient. About 20 percent thought Wang should stay behind bars for the rest of his life.

"It's totally unfair if Wang stays in prison for merely five years but the little girl may have to live in the shadow of mental distress and fear all her life," commented one Weibo user.

"I'm afraid such a light punishment may indirectly encourage evil-willed adult men to hurt underage girls," wrote another, calling the "cost of committing a crime too low."

There is little possibility that the court will give Wang a more severe sentence in his second and final trial, without protest from local procurators, said Zheng Ziyin, who is a registered lawyer and director of a professional committee on minor protection laws under the Guangdong Lawyers Association.

"I estimate that the final verdict is unlikely to be changed in the second trial," Zheng told the Global Times on Wednesday.

It is hard to evaluate if the first trial sentence was too light as the court doesn't make details of the case public, Zheng said.

The legal professionals reached by the Global Times nonetheless blame Wang's defense lawyer Chen Youxi, who revealed online some details of the case including the girl's physical injuries, which they believe caused secondary damage to the underage victim.

Some of Chen's controversial remarks on the case, asserting Wang has "a bottom line of not touching (sexually offending) girls aged under 16," have also caused heated public debate. Many have criticized Chen for trying to sway public opinion by framing Wang as a person with "some moral principles."

Zheng said he was disgusted by Chen's remarks, which he thinks have challenged the public's moral boundaries. "Chen's words and behaviors have shown his poor awareness of how to protect molested children," Zheng added.

The public also questioned the crime of "indecency with children" that Wang was prosecuted for, which can result in a prison sentence of up to five years. Many netizens said Wang deserves a much heavier sentence like punishment for raping underage girls, which can be a death sentence at most.

"Can the prosecutors make it clear why they defined Wang's laceration of a nine-year-old's vagina as 'indecency' not 'rape'?" one Weibo user asked.

Chu Yin, a public administration professor at the University of International Relations, said that the involved supervisory organ in Shanghai city should respond to the public skepticism.

The light sentence favors the perpetrator, which goes against international practice, Chu said. "In Western countries, similar offences can result in decades in prison," he told the Global Times Wednesday.