China’s top prosecutor has found no evidence to support child rape allegations against a lawyer after a woman who claimed to be his adopted daughter accused him of sexually abusing her from the age of 14.
The Supreme People’s Procuratorate said on Thursday that evidence the woman, identified only as Han, had provided “could not be considered proof of guilt” in the charges against lawyer Bao Yuming, 48.
“Currently there is no evidence that shows Bao did not respect Han’s wishes, or used violence, blackmail, or any other methods to force her into sexual relations,” the procuratorate said.
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In April, the procuratorate sent investigators to Yantai, Shandong province, where Bao was working, to examine a complaint by Han, who claimed to be 18 at the time.
According to Han, Bao “adopted” her when she was just 14, the age of consent in China.
Han alleged that the relationship was not consensual but because 14 was the age of consent, Bao could only be convicted of rape, not of sexual relations with a minor.
Bao denied the allegations but the incident sparked a storm of debate on Chinese social media about the need to raise the sexual age of consent, as well as better protect victims of sexual abuse.
In the ensuing #MeToo-like controversy, Bao stepped down as a non-executive-director at leading Chinese telecommunications company ZTE.
Jereh Group, an oil and gas company based in Yantai, also said it had ended its relationship with Bao over the allegations.
On Thursday, the procuratorate said Han’s real birthday was October 1997, rather than August 2001 as stated on her birth certificate, making Han already an adult when she met Bao in October 2015.
The procuratorate also said Han was not formally adopted by Bao and he did not know Han’s true age during their four-year relationship.
But he did think Han was a minor, amounting to a“violation of social ethics and public morals, meriting condemnation from society”, the procuratorate said.
As a result of the investigation, 12 officials in the eastern province of Anhui were disciplined for helping Han to falsify her birth date.
Bao also lost his licence to practise law last week after a separate investigation in Beijing that concluded that he had dual nationality, an offence under Chinese law.
The Beijing Department of Justice said Bao obtained US nationality in 2006 without declaring it to Chinese authorities. His Beijing law licence was revoked on Friday and according to Yantai public security authorities he will be deported.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Two years on, woman who set off #MeToo in China still looking for ‘breakthrough’
- China court upholds landmark #MeToo sexual harassment verdict
This article China clears lawyer in #MeToo storm of child rape claims but orders deportation first appeared on South China Morning Post