UPDATE on “Group Licentiousness” Conviction

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Last week I wrote about the conviction of Ma Yaohai, a Chinese computer-science professor who was recently sentenced to three and a half years in prison for organizing what the New York Times called "informal swingers clubs" and what the Chinese government unfortunately calls illegal "group licentiousness."  A few other details came to my attention today that I thought I should pass on.

  • Some reports refer to the offense as "crowd licentiousness," which might be a translation issue, or maybe it just depends on the size of the group involved.
  • Prosecutors claimed that most of the swinging went on in Ma's two-bedroom apartment, which he shared with his mom.
  • Ma's handle in online chat rooms was "Roaring Virile Fire," which is awesome.
  • The woman who later became his girlfriend went by "Passionate Fiery Phoenix."  (Also awesome.)

While a lot of the details are entertaining, the convictions of course aren't.  Ma was the only one from his crowd who refused to plead guilty, and is planning to appeal.  He may have public support on his side — according to the Times, several Chinese news websites published editorials saying that private behavior of this kind should not be prosecuted, including a site "maintained by the propaganda department of Shanxi Province."  The Times also noted that in the early 1980s, a man convicted of a similar pseudo-crime was actually executed.  So I guess you could say things are improving.

 Link: New York Times (May 20)