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Child-rape case for higher court as suspect faces death penalty

PROSECUTORS in a child-rape case in southwestern China have handed the case to an intermediate court because one of the eight suspects involved could be sentenced to life imprisonment or the death penalty.

The accused will now be prosecuted by the People's Procuratorate of Zunyi City in Guizhou Province after new facts and evidence were uncovered, the Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

All the teenager victims are female students from primary and secondary schools in Xishui County in Guizhou. Some were even reported to be under 14 when they were forced to have sex with clients.

One of the accused, Yuan Ronghui, is charged with forcing the schoolgirls into prostitution from October 2007 to July 2008.

The other seven, including four civil servants, one lawmaker, a teacher and a taxi driver, are charged with raping teenage girls, Xinhua said.

Local police officials said Yuan may face a life sentence or the death penalty.

The suspects were tried behind closed doors at Xishui County court on statutory rape charges on April 8. The hearing ended on April 9 with no verdicts being handed down.

Prosecutors in Xishui, however, announced on April 22 they had suspended charges against the accused after new evidence.

Under China's criminal law, the jail term for rapists is three to 10 years. But child rapists, including those convicted of statutory rape, can be sentenced to life terms or even death if they knew the victim is under 14.

The scandal, involving a dozen girls, caused outrage throughout the country.

An investigation began last August after a woman in Xishui told police her teenage daughter had been raped.

By October, the police had uncovered a ring which allegedly abducted girls from a primary school and two secondary schools in the area and forced them into prostitution.

Some were tricked by their classmates and told they could only be released when they lured others into the business.

At around the same time, a child rape case in eastern China's Zhejiang Province was reported to have involved at least 19 teenage girl victims.

Three people, a grade nine female student, a village official and a karaoke club owner, have been arrested in Lishui City.


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