As usual, there have been some allegations about my integrity in the wake of my failure to update this post to reflect the arrest of Wang Zhonggui on Wednesday. The reason for my silence was actually more closely related to a last-second freelance assignment that was followed immediately by a particularly brutal cold which I’m still getting over.
Anyway, yes, Wang Zhonggui was arrested on Wednesday (this article says Thursday, but I believe that is incorrect). This is good, I guess, but it was inevitable. Let’s review the timeline, shall we?
- May 17, 2011 – Wang Zhonggui allegedly rapes Zhou.
- May 18, 2011 – Zhou reports to the police that she was raped, the police essentially tell her not to press the issue.
- Late May 2011 – Police allegedly investigate, state there is not enough evidence to charge Wang.
- Early July 2011 – The case starts to gain attention on Weibo and elsewhere on the net
- July 12, 2011 – The case is reported in the mainstream Chinese media
- July 13, 2011 – Wang Zhonggui is arrested.
I am not a big believer in coincidences. Obviously, Wang was arrested because the local government was tired of taking heat and wanted to look like they were doing something about the case now that people (other than the rape victim and her family) were actually paying attention. To me, that just confirms that this case really is as bad as it seemed at first; the police decision to arrest or not arrest Wang obviously had nothing to do with the evidence discovered at the scene.
Given the evidence described in the original article, I am fairly certain that the police have arrested the right man. Time will tell whether or not anything will come of this arrest, but at least police are taking the case seriously. Or rather, taking public anger about the case seriously.
But why wasn’t he arrested after the crime was reported and police conducted their first investigation? They found ample physical evidence of sexual activity, and given that even their own men were present at the scene when she was essentially ordered to get drunk with her boss, it’s hard to imagine how there “wasn’t enough evidence” to at least detain Wang for a few days for questioning. Hell, they detained Ai Weiwei for two months for alleged tax evasion, and that was a week before they even started investigating!
What changed between May 18 and July 13? The evidence was the same. The witnesses were all there from the get-go. The only thing that changed was the cost-benefit analysis for the government. In May, it appeared that locking up Wang would do little to benefit the government or the Party. It would be an embarrassment, and since Zhou was a nobody with no political connections, there was no reason to arrest Wang if the evidence could be presented in such a way as to suggest the possibility of his innocence. And if Zhou really got angry, well, probably they could convince her to settle things privately, and quietly, with cash. That calculation changed when the media attention came, though. In July, it makes more sense for them to arrest Wang. With the nation’s eyes on them, it’s more embarrassing to let him walk than it is to bring him in late and pretend that’s what you were doing all along.
There was plenty of evidence to arrest Wang from the get-go. If they really thought he was innocent, they wouldn’t have arrested him on Wednesday. His belated arrest proves that local governments and the police department can respond to pressure from society and from the media, but what good is that? The media cannot be China’s police, and neither can the masses on Weibo. They may have won a “victory” here, but how many defeats evade their eyes? This sort of thing is not a freak accident, and though Wang eventually was arrested, many others remain free (and Wang may well be freed once the media’s attention has turned elsewhere).
For example: several months ago, we heard from a connection about a women whose child was kidnapped who wanted to speak with the media. Her story was worse than most — she had made a stink about it with the police in her local area, who were very annoyed by her constant demands they find her child, and finally, one of the police officers raped her. She reported this to local police at several levels, but nothing happened. For a brief moment, she was looking for media coverage of her story — this was how we found out about it — but she quickly changed her mind, deciding she’d suffered enough and a media firestorm wasn’t likely to do much more than bring more anger down on her head from the police and local officials.
China watchers will of course also remember the Deng Yujiao incident, another case of someone in a position of power attempting rape. That case gained attention only because Deng managed to kill the rapist; how many Dengs or Zhous are there out there who are raped and don’t go to the police, or take the police’s advice to heart when they’re told to keep their mouths shut? Or even who don’t keep their mouths shut but can’t get attention in the current media environment?
I’m happy for Zhou that her attacker has been arrested, and I hope that he stays in prison for a long time. But it’s not exactly time to celebrate. This case is just yet another piece of evidence that China’s justice system serves not the people but the government and the Party. And even if justice is served from time to time, it’s the right result for the wrong reason.