Real estate billionaire appeals against child molestation conviction

Society & Culture

Two days after he was found guilty of molesting a nine-year-old girl, Chinese real estate billionaire Wáng Zhènhuá 王振华 has already started working on his appeal.

A mere two days after he was found guilty of molesting a nine-year-old girl, Chinese real estate billionaire Wáng Zhènhuá 王振华 has already started working on his appeal, according to Wang’s lawyer, Chén Yǒuxī 陈有西.

On June 16, a court in Shanghai sentenced Wang to five years in jail for child molestation. Under Chinese criminal law, five years is the maximum prison term for Wang’s offense, which was not classified as rape (强奸 qiángjiān) but as child molestation (猥亵儿童 wěixiè értóng).

“Wang never changed his testimony. He has been consistently denying the allegations of child molestation in police interviews and at court,” defense attorney Chen wrote in a statement (in Chinese) released on June 18. “Wang has already decided to appeal his conviction. He will be pleading not guilty.”

Meanwhile, the victim’s lawyer, Jì Shíjùn 计时俊, told (in Chinese) reporters that he, too, had filed an appeal almost immediately after the verdict, asking for a harsher punishment against Wang. “I believe Wang has committed more heinous crimes than molestation,” Ji said.

Ever since the verdict was made public, Chinese social media has been alight with outrage over what many people thought was a lenient sentence, as well as speculation that Wang’s money and influence had affected his treatment.

Much of the public’s ire was directed at the fact that Wang was convicted on charges of child molestation rather than having sexual intercourse with an underage girl, which is considered rape under Chinese law and usually carries more serious penalties than molestation does.

Last summer, when the victim’s mother reported to police that her daughter was sexually assaulted by Wang, the initial investigation conducted by Shanghai police showed that Wang caused genital injuries to the girl.

But in his statement, Wang’s lawyer, Chen, said that a group of forensic experts in Beijing reached a different conclusion after reviewing the Shanghai police’s report. They decided that the injuries were not caused by Wang, and that Wang had no intention of raping the girl because he only sexually penetrated her with his finger. Chen claimed that while Wang had solicited prostitutes before, he had no history of pedophilia. “He drew the line at underage girls,” Chen said.

Chen also urged those who disagreed with the verdict to be critical about information leaked from the victim’s side, saying that public opinion might prejudice Wang’s ability to have his case fairly judged. “The girl has attracted a lot of attention and empathy by seeking help from the media and disclosing information regarding the case,” Chen wrote.

Unsurprisingly, Chen’s statement calling for calm and fairness didn’t register well with most people on Chinese social media. Many of those who thought the sentence was too lenient in the first place said that the statement read like a condescending dismissal of their demand for harsher punishment. “Wang’s lack of remorse is beyond me. Now I want the death penalty for him. The next trial needs to be livestreamed to the public!” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese). The lawyer, Chen, also has become a subject of criticism. “His defending Wang is obscene. How did he get a law degree?” a Weibo user commented (in Chinese).