Usually a woman accusing a local official of rape isn't international news. However, one upcoming rape trial is attracting attention because it's taking place in China. Having a powerful man charged withs sexual assault isn't easy anywhere, but in China it's nearly impossible.

This month Wang Zhonggui, the chief of the land and resource bureau in the town of Ashi, is expected to stand trial for the rape of a schoolteacher in May. Wang and several other officials visited Ashi's middle school, and afterwards, the principal encouraged the teacher to toast each of their visitors. She had 14 or 15 shots and Wang and the school's vice principal offered to drive her home. Instead they wound up alone in Wang's suite. The New York Times reports:

After the school official left, she staggered to the bathroom, threw up and tried to hold the door shut while Mr. Wang pounded on it.

Then, she said, Mr. Wang climbed through the bathroom window and dragged her to a bedroom adjoining his office. She woke up several hours later, almost naked, in an empty room. On the floor was a used condom, she said.

The woman reported the rape to police, but their response was horrifying. They refused to secure the crime scene, one officer told her to keep quiet to protect her reputation, and another said, "If he wore a condom, it isn't rape." Later a town official encouraged her boyfriend to leave her.

Sexual assaults often go unreported in countries around the world, but the problem is particularly bad in China. Out of a population of 1.3 billion, only 32,000 sex crimes were reported in 2007. The number of reported rapes in China was 12 times lower than in the U.S. that year. There are also few services in place to help rape victims. For example, Beijing has only one sexual assault hotline serving 20 million people, and it's only available four nights a week (and sometimes they just don't pick up the phone).

Police detained and quickly released Wang, saying there was a lack of evidence in the case (because they refused to collect any). Authorities did everything they could to make the case go away, but the teacher refused to stop pushing them to prosecute the crime. In July she posted an account of the rape online, saying:

"I am appealing from the bottom of my heart: leaders, please punish this criminal; please make these public servants that I've mentioned above take responsibility for their actions; please seek justice on my behalf."


The story was picked up by local media, and police were finally forced to take action. Several people who refused to help her were fired, and Wang is awaiting trial.

Guo Jianmei, director of the Women's Legal Consultancy Center in Beijing, says that more rape victims are starting to find support online like the teacher did. However, even if there's ample evidence, the chances of seeing a rape prosecuted are still grim. The Women's Legal Consultancy Center is the only private group in the nation that offers legal aid specifically for rape victims, and the government just cut its funding in half. Plus, after fighting hard to make police charge Wang, the teacher has been silenced. She says she can't talk to the media anymore becuase officials are threatening her and her family.

Rape Case Is a Rarity in Chinese Justice System [NYT]

Image via Gilmanshin/Shutterstock.