Son of PLA singer faces rape trial

Li Tianyi, son of Li Shuangjiang, a general of the Chinese People's Liberation Army who gained fame singing revolutional songs, performs during his solo concert at a odeum of China National Orchestra in Beijing, August 19, 2011.

BEIJING - The teenage son of a well-known People's Liberation Army (PLA) singer goes on trial on Wednesday suspected of involvement in a gang rape in a case that has inflamed public anger.

Li Tianyi, 17, is among five men accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a Beijing hotel in February, according to Chinese media.

His father is Li Shuangjiang of the PLA, who is a singer known for performing patriotic songs on television shows and at official events.

Li's mother, Meng Ge, is a famous singer in the PLA.

It is not the teenager's first brush with the law. In 2011, he drove a BMW into another car in Beijing, beat up the couple inside the vehicle and then scoffed at bystanders about calling the police.

He was sentenced to a year in a juvenile correctional facility and his father made a public apology.

The latest case has dominated headlines for weeks, focusing attention again.

"The general public is worried that his family, because of their relationships and power, will be able to use their connections," said Zhang Ming, a politics professor at Renmin University.

In July, hackers attacked the website of one of the law firms representing Li, saying: "We just want to return justice to the client."

"SUE ME!"

Even the People's Daily weighed in on Li's case when it broke, saying the failure of prominent families to educate their children could "lead to antagonism among the people".

The case has also stoked debate about rape and attitudes towards women.

In July, a law professor at the elite Tsinghua University apologised online after he had said that "raping a chaste woman is more harmful than raping a bar girl, a dancing girl ... or a prostitute", sparking outrage.

Li's lawyer, Chen Shu, told Reuters Li would not plead guilty but he declined to elaborate except to say the court was not expected to announce a verdict on Wednesday.

Li's lawyers have asked the court to investigate suspected prostitution and extortion relating to the case, Li's legal adviser, Lan He, was quoted by the China News Service as saying.

The lawyer for the woman victim could not be reached for comment.

Family connections do not always help unruly offspring.

In 2010, a 22-year-old man was jailed for six years after he ran over a student and shouted "Sue me if you dare. My father is Li Gang!"

Li Gang was a deputy police chief of a city.

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