Three Chinese teenagers living in the US have been jailed for kidnap and assault, in a case that has sparked discussion in China about unsupervised children studying abroad.
The court in Los Angeles on Wednesday gave the 19-year-olds sentences ranging from six to 13 years for two attacks.
The three, who had been sent by their families to study in the US, had admitted to the charges.
One defendant said it was a “wake-up call for the ‘parachute kid’ syndrome”.
“Parents in China are well-meaning and send their kids thousands of miles away with no supervision and too much freedom. That is a formula for disaster,” said Yuhan “Coco” Yang in a statement read by her lawyer.
‘Lord of the Flies’
Yang along with Yunyao “Helen” Zhai and Xinlei “John” Zhang, was found to have kidnapped and assaulted an 18-year-old girl in March last year.
The incident was sparked by a disagreement over an unpaid restaurant bill, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The three, along with others, took the girl to a park where she was stripped naked, kicked, slapped and burnt with cigarettes.
Zhai and Zhang had also beaten and burnt another victim in a separate incident that same month. Both victims were also Chinese students.
Under a plea deal, the three admitted to assault and kidnap, but a charge of torture was dropped.
A judge earlier in the trial had said it reminded him of the William Golding novel Lord of the Flies, about a group of boys stranded on an island who descend into savagery.
Judge Thomas C Falls had said that “parachute kids” often have “no supervision, no-one to turn to for assistance. So these things can get out of control”.
On Tuesday, Yang and Zhai both blamed their behaviour on living without their parents, who remained in China.
Zhai said: “Here, I became lonely and lost. I didn’t tell my parents because I didn’t want them to worry about me.”
The sentencing drew overwhelming approval among internet users in China, where there is a suspicion that the children of the wealthy and powerful often get off lightly for their crimes.
“What China could not sentence, the US can. In China you may have money and power, but you can’t use that in the US,” said one user on the microblogging network Weibo.
“If you can’t discipline [your child] well, and send [him] abroad, don’t ask others to discipline for you,” said another user.-BBC