Following initial reports on social media, Chinese media reported widely yesterday that a couple in Beijing were attacked on September 6 by the 15-year-old son of famous Chinese singer Li Shuangjiang (李双江) after a simple traffic accident. According to eyewitnesses, Li’s son, who was driving a BMW without a driver’s license, attacked the couple with another man within minutes allegedly rear-ending their car, beating them and shouting, “Who dares dial 110!”
For many Chinese, this incident bore eerie echoes of the “Li Gang case” of October 2010, in which the son of an influential police official in Hebei Province struck two university students with his car, killing one, while driving on campus. When finally stopped, the young man threatened others saying, “My father is Li Gang!” These words became a slogan in China summing up the problem of corruption, abuse of power and disproportionate privilege among government leaders and other elites and their family members.
The broader issue of privilege among China’s second-generation political and business elites is encompassed in two terms now widely used, the “power progeny” or “second-generation [of] officials” (官二代) and the “second-generation rich” (富二代). Li Shuangjiang’s son would be considered a prime example of the latter, as would Lu Xingyu (卢星宇), the daughter of billionaire Lu Junqing (卢俊卿) who is now embroiled, along with her father, in a scandal of her own.
In the lead editorial in today’s edition of The Beijing News, the term “second-generation rich” is not used explicitly. But the editorial deals generally with the issue of privilege and inequality of opportunity in China and what they mean for society.
These are issues that will no doubt be played out in many more cases to come.
A translation of the lead editorial in The Beijing News follows:
“Why Does a 15-year-old Dare to ‘Pick Fights and Make Trouble’?“
September 9, 2011
According to a report in The Beijing News, the son of vocalist Li Shuangjiang (李双江), who is suspected of driving without a license and attacking others, has already been arrested according to the law. There is nothing greatly suspenseful about the case, which in due time will be investigated and handled according to the law. But the repercussions of this suspected case of “troublemaking” certainly do not end here.
In all fairness, this dispute itself was quite plain and ordinary, and was not something awful. The direct damage resulting from it was also minimal. But the social impact is ugly. Not only the parents of those involved, but all society is perhaps asking: Why did a 15-year-old youth not even capable of bearing full legal responsibility for his actions act in such an aggressive manner? And how did the ideas and problem-solving impulses behind these actions take shape?
In the media and public appearances, Li Shuangjiang and his wife have often praised their son’s talents and abilities, and have allowed him to appear onstage in numerous public forums. At the age of 5, he became the “youngest ambassador for [China’s] Olympic big”, appearing onstage numerous times with his father to sing . . .
It’s not difficult to see that many of these opportunities and much of this limelight were not so much about the child’s talent, effort or professional skill so much as his being steeped in the light of being “Li Shuangjiang’s son.” And as for these undeserved opportunities for limelight, all sides gave them and received them in without the least unease, the famous Li Shuangjiang and his wife not only making them possible but clearly having no qualms whatsoever about it.
Everyone loves their children, but it is precisely this teaching by precept and example that might exercise a subtle influence, allowing the child to heap up the sense of relying on, trusting in and even reveling in the halo bestowed by their parents — believing that all of the conveniences and privileges enjoyed by “Li Shuangjiang’s son” are normal, and that just by raising the “great flag” of his parents he can live without restrictions and have whatever he pleases. Each time father and son took the stage, each instance of vaunting before the public, imperceptibly strengthened the son’s sense that he enjoyed special privileges.
Perhaps as a father Li Shuangjiang would not have hoped to instill in his son this sense [of superiority], but objectively speaking the possession of privilege and convenience itself is the best breeding ground for this sense of special rights and privileges.
Media have reported that Li Shuangjiang noticed from his sons keen interest and aptitude for cars from a young age, that when his son was young he would teach him hand-on-hand [how to drive] in the open space of their courtyard, and that he would compare driving cars to melodies and symphonies. The BMW without tags [involved in the recent incident] had previously been worked on, and the refitting was quite expensive, clearly not the kind of work that can be done by a youth on his own. A 15-year-old is unable to apply for a driver’s license under the law, and Li Shuangjiang and his wife must know this. They should also know that giving a motor vehicle to someone who does not possess a driver’s license is a violation of traffic laws. What is regrettable, though, is that they gave tacit consent, or even encouraged this symphony their son should not have played [ie, this recent incident]. . .
Parents are the first teachers of their own children, and while they may be proud of their kids they must not allow their kids to be puffed with pride. They must not allow their sons to wield special privileges that are not rightfully theirs, and act with [reckless] “courage,” because of [the parent’s] own status and name.
This incident has drawn a wave of public attention most of all because this is not an isolated case, and that to varying degrees [in different cases] these examples of youth misusing the resources of their parents and see public order and the public good as something to be spurned.
After this incident, Li Shuangjiang and his wife went to the hospital to visit the the woman who was beaten [by their son], and they apologized on behalf of their son saying that, “I didn’t teach my son properly,” that he would willingly submit to the victim “using a club to give me a good beating” and that he “would not indulge the errors committed by his own child.” This is proper behavior, and it might to some degree restore [Li Shuangjiang’s] image. But should we not as a society think deeply about why we had to wait for this kind of thing to happen before we confessed in this way?