30 high school girls in China forced into sex servitude– case highlights growing problem

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Police in China busted a pedophile ring that forced 30 high school girls — some of them under age 14 — into sex. The case highlights the growing problem of sexual abuse of children in China.

At least 30 high school girls in China’s Henan province have allegedly been forced into providing sexual services since 2015, according to Beijing’s Legal Mirror, and reported earlier this week via China’s Global Times. 

Police in that province’s Weishi county said several of at least 30 high school students were under 14 years old. Under Chinese law, those engaged in sexual conduct with girls under age 14 face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, and those convicted of raping a child could face execution.

Since 2015, a local businessman with the last name Zhao had asked another man surnamed Li find him young virgins for sex, the Global Times reported.

One victim said Mr. Li sent her to a hotel, where Mr. Zhao was waiting naked on the bed. After she and Mr. Zhao had sex, Mr. Li allegedly gave the girl 300 yuan ($43.6), which she said she refused, the Global Times reported.

Local police have arrested individuals allegedly connected to the case since February, the month in which the authorities initially found out about the ring. The case is still under investigation by Henan Province’s Department of Public Security, according to the Global Times.

The case underscores what some believe to be a growing incidence of child sexual abuse in China.

Fang Xiangming of China Agricultural University, estimated in 2015 that that 9.5 percent of girls in China and 8 percent of boys had fallen victim to some type of sexual abuse from adults, from rape to groping, reported The Economist.

While the percentage of China’s abused boys is roughly even with the worldwide average, and Chinese girls are a little lower, the absolute numbers are massive, in a country with a 1.3 billion-strong population. There could be as many as 25 million cases of sexually abused people under age 18 in China, The Economist estimates. 

There may be even more, as children tend to hide the abuse and often come out about it years later.

According to a New York Times op-ed by Chinese author Lijia Zhang, all the girls in her math class, when she was in high school in the 1970s, were molested by their teacher. One girl, who was the predator’s most frequent target, dropped out of school. Zhang said while the girls knew something was wrong, it had never occurred to them to report the incidents, Zhang wrote.

Even in relatively more open Hong Kong, a poll of university students found 68 percent of female victims of sexual abuse and 60 percent of males had not disclosed to anyone the abuse they had suffered, reported The Economist. 

Also contributing to the problems is that so many millions of children in China are left behind in villages while their parents go to far-away cities for work, and are left with relatives. Parents may only see their children once a year, and may have little contact otherwise, except for quick phone conversations. With parents not around to protect them, some believe such children are more at risk for sexual abuse, The Economist reported. 

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