China sentences Canadian pop star Kris Wu to prison for rape

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HONG KONG — Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu was sentenced Friday by a Beijing court to 13 years in prison on charges including rape, in one of China’s more high-profile #MeToo cases.

The verdict was welcomed by women’s rights advocates, who clashed with Beijing’s growing intolerance of dissent and popular activism under President Xi Jinping. Chinese lawyers said Wu had the right to appeal his conviction. He previously denied the allegations.

Wu, also known as Wu Yifan, rose to fame as part of the South Korean-Chinese boy band Exo and later became a solo artist. He was detained in 2021 after multiple allegations were leveled against him, leading to widespread public condemnation. At the time, luxury brands such as the French fashion label Louis Vuitton and the German car manufacturer Porsche distanced themselves from the pop idol, with whom they had commercial deals.

“It is encouraging news, especially in the context of the continued erosion of women’s rights in the country over the past decade,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said of the sentencing. “Now other victims of sexual assault in China can feel empowered that they too can come forward with their stories and seek justice.”

However, Wang warned that censorship of women’s rights activists in China continues. She also noted that the prosecution in the case against Wu was “shrouded in secrecy” and that “some of the criticism of the authorities’ handling of his case had been scrapped from the Chinese internet,” she said.

“In other words, the ruling Chinese Communist Party can take today’s victory and make progress at any time,” Wang said.

On Friday, Wu was sentenced to 11½ years in prison for rape, plus one year and 10 months for “gang assault,” according to a statement on the Beijing Chaoyang Weibo account of the court. The court said he would receive a total of 13 years in prison and be deported.

The court statement detailed that from November to December 2020, Wu assaulted three women, who were under the influence of alcohol and “unable to resist”, at his home. In 2018, he conspired with others to organize “lewd activities” with two women. , the court said.

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The statement said officials from the Canadian embassy were present at the sentencing. Born in China but moved to Canada as a child, Wu holds Canadian nationality.

The online firestorm started when Du Meizhu, the first woman to publicly accuse Wu of sexual assault, detailed her allegations in an interview with NetEase, a Chinese media outlet. In the interview, Du said that Wu lured her to his home and showered her with alcohol when she was 17 years old. About two dozen women came forward with allegations after Du spoke out.

On sentencing day, Du wrote on her verified Weibo page that “justice has been delayed, but it has arrived.” Her post was liked more than 2.5 million times on Saturday afternoon. What’s On Weibo, a news site that tracks Chinese social media, reported that Du “celebrated” the phrase in a live stream and that a Chinese-language hashtag translated as “Wu Yifan turns 13” had been viewed more than 1.7 times. billion times.

Separately on Friday, Wu was fined approximately $84 million by authorities for tax-related crimes committed between 2019 and 2020, Reuters reported.

Healy reported from Washington. Eva Dou contributed to this report.

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