Prosecutors in northeast Yunnan have asked court officials to reconsider the light sentence given to an official convicted of rape last month. Growing public outrage vented on microblogs has been credited with spurring the request, People's Daily is reporting.
On September 24, Guo Yuchi (郭玉驰), a bureaucrat in the Daguan County government, was found guilty of raping a four year-old girl after confining her in his home. He received a five-year prison term by a Daguan County court, which also ruled Guo was not liable for civil damages.
Prosecutors have now appealed the "clearly inappropriate sentence" to the Zhaotong City Intermediate People's Court, which hears appeals from lower courts. The petition for a new sentence was filed on grounds that the original punishment was a "miscarriage of justice".
Chinese law allows for the "severe punishment" of any adult convicted of having sex with a minor 14 years of age or younger. The penal code allows for sentences ranging from a minimum of five years imprisonment to life in jail. In some instances the death penalty can also be incurred.
Attorneys protesting Guo's sentence claim the ruling does not reflect the provisions laid out in the national criminal code. They have are also questioning why the possibility of civil penalties were excluded, citing the child's age and the limited financial position of her family which prevented them from personally challenging the ruling.
Using national precedents, victims of crimes can sue for monetary damages if they can provide evidence of economic losses. Plaintiffs unable to prove such losses can also file for "moral damages" in civil court, although this option is not available to some during judicial proceedings.
After Guo's sentence was announced the story was forwarded on Chinese microblogging services. Thousands of people have expressed outrage at what they see as too lenient a punishment, according to the China Daily report. Microblogs — referred to as weibo — have become a popular outlet for Chinese internet users to voice their displeasure on a wide range of topics, often related to the government.
Zhaotong prefecture is no stranger to judicial reversals caused by internet uproar. In 2011, Yunnan's highest court announced it would retry a Zhaotong double murder case after netizens erupted in protest over the original verdict.
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