China billionaire imprisoned for molesting 9-year-old girl

Wang Zhenhua, the former chairman of Future Land Development, has been formally charged by prosecutors in Shanghai.
PHOTO: Reuters

A billionaire founder of a real estate firm was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of sexually molesting a 9-year-old girl at a five-star hotel in Shanghai, a local court ruled on Wednesday.

Wang Zhenhua, a native of Changzhou, Jiangsu province, who was 57 at the time, was chairman of the board of Seazen, a property developer based in Shanghai and listed in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.

He was also a member of the municipality's political advisory body.

According to a report from Xinmin Evening News, a friend of the girl's mother had taken the girl to the city on the pretext of visiting Disneyland, but eventually took the girl to the hotel.

The friend, Zhou Yanfen, who was 49 then and a native of Jiangsu, was sentenced to four years in jail.

The trial, which was closed to the public to protect privacy, lasted 16 hours from Tuesday through Wednesday, and was heard at Shanghai Putuo District People's Court.

The chief judge of the case told People's Court Daily that Wang molested a minor under 12 years old and left her with a level 2 minor injury, which both constituted the maximum punishment.

Wang denied the accusation of molestation throughout the police investigation and the court hearing, according to the judge.

Local media reported that at first, a veteran lawyer from Shanghai served as Wang's attorney, but later he was replaced by one from Beijing and another from Zhejiang province.

Xinmin Evening News reported that the offence occurred on June 29, leaving the child with injuries to her genitalia.

The girl made a phone call about the incident to her mother, who was in Jiangsu. The mother contacted Shanghai police, and Wang and Zhou were detained by police on July 3.

Child molestation refers to sexually assaulting a child in a way that doesn't include sexual intercourse.

The case sparked public outrage and calls for a thorough investigation of Wang's possible involvement with other children. The company's stock endured consecutive losses over the following days after the crime was made public.

When Wang was detained by police, Seazen announced that his son, Wang Xiaosong, was elected at a board meeting to take over the company.

On July 8, Wang Zhenhua was removed from the Shanghai political advisory body.

The Jiangsu provincial government and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security revoked awards given to Wang as a provincial-and national-level model worker in July and May respectively.