Ex-Communist Party of China official executed for child rapes, state media reports

Members of the honour guard prepare for the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang during his welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 19, 2013. The Vietnamese President is on a two day visit to China and will meet Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Officials in central China executed a former Communist Party official for raping underage girls, state media reported.

The case of Li Xingpong, the former deputy Communist Party chief of Yongcheng city, caused an uproar online after police said he had raped 11 girls, all under age 18, since the latter half of 2011.

Abuse of power by Communist Party officials has long been a central cause of online activists, and Li's case was seen by some as emblematic of the problem. In response, the government has promised to "come down harder on crimes committed against juveniles, show minimal tolerance toward such offenders and offer the greatest level of protection possible for children," according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

While China has encouraged people to take to the Internet to expose corruption and abuse of power, it generally keeps tight rein on what can be said about problems involving more senior officials, Reuters reports.

Li apparently appealed his death sentence, but was struck down by the Henan Provincial Higher People's Court, Xinhua states, adding that the execution was approved by the Supreme People's Court. Li was arrested this past May, along with another woman for allegedly helping Li "pick, seduce and rape the school girls," Xinhua reports. Her fate is not clear.

China's new president, Xi Xingping, has seized on the issue of party corruption and extravagance since coming into office in November.