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Daily Drip

China’s Epstein: Billionaire Tycoon Charged with Child Sexual Abuse

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When #MeToo first rocked the American entertainment industry, its waves were powerful enough to break on the shores of China, sparking a parallel movement dubbed #我也是. Now, almost one year later, those waves have not stopped breaking — last Saturday in Shanghai, billionaire real-estate developer Wang Zhenhua was arrested in response to the alleged sexual molestation of a 9 year old girl.

Last week, Chinese media outlets reported that Wang and a female accomplice, “Zhou”, were involved in the trafficking and molestation of two girls, aged 9 and 12. It is alleged that Zhou took the children from a neighboring province to Wang’s hotel, after telling the parents they were going to Shanghai Disneyland. Later, one of the children told her parents that she had been molested, leading to the detention of both Wang and Zhou.

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Later, a post from a Shanghai public affairs official began circulating on the internet, warning media outlets not to report on the investigation. The government’s first reaction was to block online discussion and media coverage of the investigation, but after intense public backlash, the decision was reversed.

Wang is the second Chinese billionaire to be arrested for sexual abuse in the past year — in August, Richard Liu, CEO of e-commerce giant JD.com, was accused of rape by a college student at the University of Minnesota. No charges were made against the billionaire, with the prosecution citing “profound evidentiary problems”, though his accuser has since launched a civil suit against him. 

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Furthermore, this news comes less than a week after the freshly renewed investigation of US multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, for his involvement in what has been referred to as a “sexual pyramid scheme”. 

Chinese officials have vowed to crack down on sexual offenders, with particular attention to child sex abuse cases. Even as early as 2013, law enforcement agencies changed their policies to make prosecution of child sex offenders easier and less forgiving. However, the average penalty for a child molester in China remains at around 5 years. 

In the face of weighty systematic shortcomings, victims continue to come forward. In light of social movements like #MeToo, the general public in China is less forgiving towards sexual aggressors — but it may take longer for the legal system to catch up.

Photo: Steve Long on Unsplash

Monisha Pillai
    Monisha is a senior at NYU studying media theory, Chinese culture and Mandarin. You can probably find her ordering boba five times a day or crying over Korean boy bands.