Sunday 22 April 2018

Chinese professor jailed for three-and-a-half years for swinging

Malcolm Moore

A Chinese university professor has been jailed for three-and-a-half years after organising a swingers' club and holding private orgies at his apartment.

Ma Yaohai, 53, was convicted of "group licentiousness" for participating in group sex parties, said the Qinhuai district court in the eastern city of Nanjing, after a month-long trial.

Mr Ma was arrested and charged with 21 other people last year, the first time that anyone has been charged under a 1997 law. Mr Ma was the only defendant to plead innocent, and also the only defendant to receive a prison sentence, with the others receiving probation.

"I am definitely not guilty and the alleged crime of 'group licentiousness' is ridiculous," said Mr Ma, a professor of computer science at Nanjing University of Technology. "I did not do anything that hurt anyone else, I did not force anyone else. Why is everyone focusing on me?" he asked, ahead of the trial.

On the first day in court, he added: "How can I have disturbed the social order? What happens in my house is a private matter."

The case, with its titillating details, has split Chinese opinion over the country's growing sexual freedom. Prostitution and extramarital affairs have become widespread, and many Chinese had sympathy for Mr Ma's plight.

Newspapers have focused on the lurid details, noting that the internet chat room that Mr Ma set up was called "Travelling Couples", that his personal login name was "bighornyfire", and that the sex parties were sometimes held in the small apartment he shares with his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Mr Ma, who has been twice-divorced, became interested in swinging in 2003 after the break-up of his second marriage. He set up his own online group in 2007, drawing around 200 members and organising activities 35 times between 2007 and 2009, according to his lawyer.

Mr Ma personally participated in 18 sessions. The 14 men and eight women arrested last year were a mix of office staff and blue-collar workers. Mr Ma's lawyer, Yao Yong'an, said his client plans to appeal.

"It is definitely not a fair case. It is not based on the law," he said.

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