What China's Talking About Today: The Lawless Children of Bureaucrats

Refusing the advances of a local Hefei official's son landed Zhou Yun in the hospital, without legal recourse.


Burn victim Zhou Yun sustained burns on 30 percent of her body after rejecting the son of high-ranking local officials / Youku

China's popular micro-blogging site, Sina Weibo, is one of the best windows we have into urban Chinese society. The Twitter-like service has 250 million registered users and adds 10 million a month. Because it often moves faster than censors can keep up, Weibo users can discuss stories and ideas that would otherwise be too sensitive for public consumption. It's a remarkable gauge of what China is thinking and talking about, which is why we're launching a regular feature at TheAtlantic.com, reporting on some of the stories dominating Weibo and what they mean.

Trending on Weibo today is the story of the lovesick son of two high-level local officials from China's eastern industrial city of Hefei. He's charged with burning and disfiguring a young girl who refused his romantic advances.

Unable to seek lawful retribution for their daughter's injuries, the victim's family has taken their cause to the Internet -- specifically, to Sina Weibo, where discussion of the assault has spanned nearly five million messages in a little over a day.

Some 9,000 of those micro-blogs shared the following news broadcast from a local Hefei station [Please note, the video includes graphic images of the victim's wounds]:

Nearly four million viewers had seen the video as of 3:00AM on February 28th, Beijing time.

According to Weibo, the assailant, 17-year-old Tao Rukun, broke into the home of his victim, Zhou Yan, in September 2011, doused her in lighter fluid, and set her alight. Burns covered 30 percent of Zhou's body.

Zhou's parents said the assailant's relatives halted compensation for their daughter's hospitalization after Zhou's father refused to sign a document that would facilitate Tao's bail process.

Unable to pay medical fees, Zhou was taken out of the hospital, and she has been suffering from her wounds for roughly six months since the attack.

Zhou's mother, Ms. Li, can be contacted at 86-15156877191 (China mobile number) for donations.

Court proceedings for the assailant have been halted, as the family is stuck in a legal stalemate with one of China's infamous "官二代,"(Pronounced: Guan Er Dai) the popular term for the powerful children of high-ranking officials.

This story has particular resonance with Chinese Netizens, resentful of the spoiled children of officials and business tycoons, who are seen as reckless and above-the-law.

User Leigh_J wrote, "The Guan Er Dai are a lawless bunch... This is like a throwback to the feudal era."

Another user, edo殿, scoffed at the term. "Daddy is a little official, so the son all of a sudden becomes a Guan Er Dai? Where's the distinction in being a Guan Er Dai?"

A similar incident that popularized discussion of China's Guan Er Dai took place in Hebei, the northern Chinese province surrounding Beijing, in October 2010. When apprehended for hit and run, Li Qiming, the 22-year-old son of Li Gang, deputy director of a local police department, uttered five words that went viral on Weibo, as symbol of the public sector's insufferable privilege and lawlessness: "My father is Li Gang!"

Presented by

Massoud Hayoun is a digital-news producer for Al Jazeera America.

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