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China’s “Startup God” bogged down in pedophilia scandal

By Kou Jie (People's Daily Online)    17:20, July 19, 2017

Photos and evidence of a Chinese online celebrity being a pedophile went viral over the weekend, indicating the country’s underperformance and lax public awareness in child protection.

Xu Haojie, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, has been reported by many Internet users for his alleged pedophiliac actions. Having over half a million followers on Sina Weibo, Xu is dubbed China’s Startup God, as his successful business ideas have inspired a lot of netizens. The Shanghai-based entrepreneur reportedly followed many accounts with obscene content and pictures of underage boys and reposted some sexually suggestive comments.

Xu was also identified by some media outlets as the possible owner of a website featuring images and video clips of young boys. The website has since been shut down, but screenshot images show it once had a large number of active users who left many vulgar comments on the website.

According to the China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's website, the website, named shotacon, was created by a person with the same name as Xu, but it is unclear if it is the same person. Shotacon is Japanese slang used to describe an attraction to young boys in a suggestive or erotic manner.

Xu’s possible crime has ignited public wrath. The hashtag XuHaoJiePedophile on Sina Weibo has garnered over 14 million page views since it was posted on July 17. Many netizens criticized Xu as “despicable and pathetic” and have reported photos and evidence to local police.

In response to the controversy, Xu posted a 14-second video clip to defend himself. He said he is being defamed, adding that he has already retained a lawyer.

As of press time, many of Xu's controversial posts cannot be found on Weibo. Police in Shanghai noted that they are aware of the incident, without making further comment.

“China’s Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that nobody shall be declared guilty without being judged as such by a court accordingly, thus more evidence is needed to press charges against Xu. If all the evidence circulating online is true, then the case should be dealt with seriously, as sexual crimes against children are prohibited in any civilized country,” said Dong Hanlin, a Beijing-based lawyer.

Rampant crimes

Xu’s incident has once again drawn public attention to a heavy yet unignorable social issue in China: the rampant sexual crimes against underage children.

According to a 2016 report released by the China Foundation of Art and Culture for Children, a total of 968 cases of sexual crimes against children were reported by Chinese media from 2013 to 2015. Over 1,790 victims have suffered sexual assaults or even rape, while the statistics shows a growing trend of such crimes.

Wang Dawei, a professor at the People’s Public Security University of China, told media that when it comes to sexual crimes against elementary or middle school students, only one out of seven cases will be revealed to the public, while many other victims may keep silent due to social pressure and feelings of embarrassment.

Though Chinese authorities hold a firm stance against such crimes, many perpetrators use advanced technologies such as the dark web to hide their crimes, while some criminals have even started an industry, selling videos and photos to foreign buyers.

In 2016, Beijing police arrested eight people for selling such videos and photos abroad. According to media reports, the criminals posted over a hundred videos of underage Chinese girls being raped or sexually harassed on hidden websites, involving over 30 victims, who were usually enticed by sweets and toys.

Meanwhile, China has yet to issue law targeting such pornography. According to China’s Criminal Law, obscene content is defined as the explicit description of sexual behavior. Yao Jianlong, a professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told Thepaper.cn that it is hard to determine if erotic content regarding children is obscene due to the lack of legal support.

“In order to protect children, the law should define obscene content, including all erotic content involving children, while more serious punishment should be imposed on the perpetrators,” said Yao.

Lax awareness

“Compared to their foreign counterparts, the Chinese public has a relatively low awareness of pedophilia. The lack of sexual education has led to many tragedies,” said Dong.

Some TV programs in China even features so-called romance scenes between adults and children as a stunt to draw public attention. In 2016, the famous reality show, “Dad! Where Are We Going?” was bombarded with criticism from the public after it showed a 23-year-old Olympic athlete and a 4-year-old girl who plays his daughter act too intimate.

“Many viewers called the relationship pure and cute, but it was awful. The show would be banned in Western countries for showing that much intimacy with a little girl, who even exposed her bare shoulders in the public,” a netizen wrote on Sina Weibo.

The society’s intolerance to the victims has also caused trauma for the children. According to the Hunan newspaper Xiangxiang Morning Post, a 13-year-old girl, who was raped and harassed by at least 18 elderly men in 2013, was criticized by locals, who said the girl should feel guilty for seducing the elderly men and getting them sent to prison.

“The authorities should raise public awareness of such despicable crimes, educating both children and their parents. More public organizations or facilities should also be established to help young deal with the pain,” said Dong.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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