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Shanghai Man Raped and Enslaved Women in His ‘Red Mansion’ for Years; Chinese Voice Outrage at Authorities for Cover-up

Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: December 8, 2021
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Women hide their faces as police raid an entertainment center which is suspected to have prostitution business on June 21, 2006 in Beijing, China. (Image: China Photos/Getty Images)

It’s been months since a court in Shanghai handed down a suspended death sentence to tailor-turned-pimp Zhao Fuqiang for 20 years of rape, enslavement, and other abuses — but the silence of Chinese authorities in the case means that the public is only now hearing about his “hell on earth built from the blood and tears of women.”

Zhao, who preyed on disadvantaged women from China’s rural regions, was sentenced by the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court on Sept. 22. Suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment.  

While state-run media remained silent on the horrific case and Zhao’s crimes, reports exposing the details led to an uproar among Chinese netizens, with many accusing the authorities of delaying justice and protecting officials thought to have worked with the main perpetrator. 

Zhao Fuqiang (standing in front row, wearing grey-green clothes) stands trial at the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court in September. (Image: Shanghai People’s Court/via Weibo)

According to a number of Chinese-language media reports, Zhao, who is in his 40s, would trick women into his brothels for supposed job interviews, before blackmailing them by threatening to release intimate video and photos if they tried to leave. 

The women were forced into sex with patrons, with the operations starting out as low-cost prostitution, then moving up the social ladder as Zhao in 2014 expanded to a high-end 6-story establishment known as the “Red Mansion.” 

Zhao’s “Red Mansion” in Yangpu, Shanghai. (Image: via Weibo)

Zhao personally raped some of his victims; meanwhile, he and his accomplicies also had the womens’ eggs forcibly harvested and sold. According to Radio Free Asia, at least one woman was rendered infertile when her Fallopian tubes were damaged by a botched operation. 

Netizens question justice of the verdict

“You didn’t dare to report on the Red Mansion story in Shanghai … instead you just keep banging on about the U.S. and the U.K. the whole time,” one Chinese netizen wrote in a Dec. 7 comment under an article published by the Communist Party-run newspaper People’s Daily. The comments as translated by Radio Free Asia. 

According to a Dec. 3 post on Zhihu, a popular Chinese question-and-answer site, the woman (or one of the women) who had become infertile was forced to help Zhao manage escorts, a crime for which she was sentenced to 14.5 years’ imprisonment despite originally being a victim. 

The post, which has now been deleted by censors, noted that her punishment exceeds the total length of prison terms handed down to several officials involved in the case. 

Other users expressed sympathy for some of the women who received prison sentences despite being victimized. 

“What’s unbelievable is that these women victims went through so many ordeals and were finally freed from Zhao Fuqiang’s control, only to end up behind bars and with release far ahead of them.”

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.