BEIJING: The 15-year-old son of a well-known Chinese army general will be detained for a year for beating a couple in an incident that sparked public outrage, state media reported.
The move came after hundreds of thousands of people went online to express their outrage at the actions of Li Tianyi, the latest in a series of scandals involving the children of high-ranking Chinese officials.
According to the reports, the younger Li and another person were attempting to exit a driveway in a residential section of Beijing when they found the couple's car blocking their way. Witnesses said he and an older friend beat the couple for three minutes in what appeared to be an act of road rage, while the couple's five-year-old son looked on.
'Who will dare call the police?' they shouted to stunned onlookers before trying to flee the scene. They were stopped by residents, the report said.
A lawyer had earlier told the English-language Global Times that Li would not be charged because he was not yet 16.
Children under that age cannot be tried in Chinese courts, and are instead detained in correctional facilities for minors for up to three years at the government's discretion.
The younger Li was sent to a government correctional facility for one year after confessing under police interrogation, Xinhua news agency said, adding that the boy's father, General Li Shuangjiang, had offered compensation to the couple.
'I have been a soldier 50 years, I never thought my son could do something like this,' local media quoted the general as saying. 'They will be dealt with by the police - I won't interfere.' General Li is also a popular singer and household name in China.
Police said that the younger Li was 'found to have physically assaulted a couple and damaged their car' on Sept 6.
Li, who at 15 is too young to get a driving licence in China, had been driving a customised BMW just before the incident occurred.
The friend drove a car with number plates that indicated it had high-level privileges. Police are often reluctant to confront cars with such official plates, although these turned out to be fake, according to some news reports.
The latest case recalls a scandal last year in which a senior police officer's son tried to use his father's status to evade punishment for a deadly car accident he had caused.
Twenty-two-year-old Li Qiming ran over a student in the northern province of Hebei, famously shouting: 'Sue me if you dare. My father is Li Gang!' He was later sentenced to six years in prison.
Both Li Qiming and Li Tianyi have quickly become targets of public disdain as members of the 'fu er dai', or 'rich second generation'.
The increasing speed with which information travels on the Chinese Internet, particularly though microblogging services such as Sina's Weibo, has helped turn the transgressions of the elite into a national obsession, according to The Wall Street Journal.
'Second-generation rich, second-generation officials, second-generation celebrities... before you learn to make money, you should probably learn how to be human,' wrote a Weibo user, Xiaowang Tiankong888.