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Chinese Court Hands Out Sentences in Orgy Case - 2003-12-17

Chinese court has sentenced two people to life in prison for organizing a sex orgy involving hundreds of Japanese tourists and Chinese prostitutes.

The case brought embarrassment to both China and Japan, and fueled resentment among many Chinese who remember rape and other atrocities committed by Japanese invaders during the Second World War.

The state-run news agency, Xinhua, says a court in the southern coastal city of Zhuhai convicted and sentenced 14 people on charges of organizing prostitution. All of those convicted are Chinese, and most received sentences ranging from two to 15 years in prison.

Two were sentenced to life in prison.

Political analysts say China's government has often used cases involving anti-Japanese resentment to promote national unity. They say the harsh sentences appear to be meant to show that the government is serious about defending China's dignity.

Chinese law mandates life sentences in cases that are determined to be extremely serious. Legal experts, like Beijing attorney Zhang Tianli, say it appears the court took into account the national embarrassment and political implications involved.

"I think the public outrage can be considered a serious circumstance", said Zhang Tianli.

Chinese authorities say the orgy took place at a luxury hotel in southern Guangdong province in September. They say the binge lasted three days and involved approximately 400 Japanese men and about 500 Chinese prostitutes.

The incident angered many Chinese who heard reports that the Japanese tourists had displayed a Japanese flag in the lobby of the hotel.

The event fell on the anniversary of a Japanese attack that many regard as the start of Japan's 14-year occupation of northeast China.

China says it has asked the Europe-based International Police Organization, Interpol, to help find and extradite three Japanese nationals wanted for allegedly organizing the sex party.

Japan has pledged to investigate the case.