According to reports from the Duke University newspaper, a 29-year-old Chinese postdoctoral fellow was arrested last month for illegal downloading, copying, and distributing child pornography.
Duke University is a top-tier private university in the United States that consistently ranks in the top 10. Many excellent Chinese students study here, with the Fuqua School of Business, Pratt School of Engineering, and Sanford School of Public Policy being world-renowned.
The postdoctoral fellow in question, Yao Yi (pseudonym), worked in Duke’s prestigious You Lab biomedical engineering laboratory and specialized in the field of bioengineering.
According to an arrest warrant, Yao Yi, a Duke University employee, was arrested on April 4th for illegally downloading and distributing videos containing inappropriate content featuring children aged 6 to 13 from August 2022 to February 2023. He has been charged with 15 counts of second-degree exploitation of minors, each of which carries a potential sentence of up to 88 months in prison, totaling 110 years if convicted. Yao’s fingerprints have been collected, and his DNA has been tested.
Although Yao has been identified as a Duke University professor in official documents, the university has denied this claim. While Yao is employed by Duke University, he is not a professor. The university has removed all information about Yao from its website, and he has been banned from entering the campus.
On April 4th, the Duke University and Cary Police Departments searched Yao’s residence. As Yao is a Chinese citizen, the investigation also involves the Department of Homeland Security.
Yao appeared in court on April 5th, and he admitted to the charges during the investigation. His bail has been set at $8 million, and he has been ordered to undergo electronic home confinement, surrender his passport, and refrain from using electronic devices or contacting anyone under the age of 18.
The outcome of Yao Yi’s case is a reminder of how one’s future can be ruined by their wrongdoings. Unfortunately, this is not the first time cases like this have happened among Chinese international students.
- In March 2021, Liu Zetian, a 25-year-old Chinese graduate student at the University of Washington, was arrested for possessing and downloading child pornography. He was sentenced to five years in prison in June of the same year.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Liu Zetian completed his undergraduate degree at Southwest University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China, in 2019. He arrived in the United States for graduate studies in July of the same year to pursue his graduate studies, but just two months later, he was arrested on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography.
According to the prosecutor’s office, on August 11, 2019, the St. Louis Cyber Crime Investigation Unit identified an illegal IP address involved in the distribution of child pornography. The investigation led authorities to Liu Zetian, who was found to be connected to the IP address in question.
On September 12, 2019, police searched Liu Zetian’s residence and discovered a large number of child pornography files on his computer. Liu was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.
- In February 2013, Zhaozhao Shen, a student at Florida State University, was arrested for possession of child pornography. Police found 14 videos and images on Shen’s computer, and he was subsequently charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. The content downloaded by Shen involved male adults and male children, and police suspected that he had downloaded more such material.Shen lived with other Chinese students in a house, but the police found the child pornography on his computer. After his arrest, his father sought help from the Chinese Student Association at Florida State University, claiming that Shen had committed the crime due to his lack of understanding of US laws.
- In December 2015, Jiemin Li, a 25-year-old Chinese student in New Jersey, was arrested for possession of child pornography.On December 19th of that year ,Li brought his Microsoft laptop to a store in Willowbrook Mall in Wayne City, New Jersey, for repair. He requested that the store technicians transfer files from his laptop to another one, and named the transferred folder “important files.” Later, the technicians discovered that the folder contained disturbing child pornography videos, and reported it to the police. Li was subsequently arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and endangering the welfare of a child.
- In early 2016, a Chinese international student was deported from Canada after being found in possession of “suspected obscene videos involving minors” on his WeChat account during customs inspection upon entry. The student had been studying in Vancouver for 15 months and was preparing to re-enter Canada when he was taken into a “small black room” by officials from CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency). The officials discovered the videos in question in a group chat on the student’s WeChat account. Although Canadian authorities ultimately determined that no crime had been committed, the CBSA officials still revoked the student’s visa and deported him back to China from Vancouver International Airport.
- On October 29, 2017, Furen Du, an exchange student at a high school in Maryland, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by Judge Salter of the Circuit Court for possessing child pornography. The police had traced the shared site of child pornography files and locked in the IP address, which led them to Furen Du’s dormitory address. They found that he had downloaded child pornography videos featuring children aged only 6 or 8, and a total of 55 child pornography files were discovered.
This type of news often sparks concern among the public, as evidenced by the comments left by netizens in the online comment section.
In response to the previously mentioned news, some netizens expressed concern over the moral standards of certain individuals who are visiting scholars rather than degree-seeking international students. They believe that their moral standards do not match those of genuine degree-seeking international students. However, other netizens disagreed and stated that it is a matter of personal ethics rather than where one is studying.
Some netizens still do not understand the bottom line of the law and the blind spots of knowledge. Is it because of downloading or because of spreading？
It is important to emphasize a misconception that many people have about North America being open and liberal. In fact, measures to combat “child sexual crimes” are extremely strict, with a maximum penalty of 20 years and a minimum of 5 years. “Downloading and sharing are both illegal.”
In the United States, child sexual abuse is a federal crime, and viewing and downloading child pornography is one of the charges related to it. Although adult films are legal in the United States, there cannot be any element involving children. Even photos of children in bikinis or nude or partially nude pictures of children taking a bath can get people into serious trouble.
As the production of child pornography is largely carried out overseas, the US law enforcement focuses on cracking down on the domestic “consumer market” for child pornography. This is also why downloading child pornography is considered a federal felony.
We also urge everyone not to cross the legal line. The market for child pornography encourages criminals to take risks, and often the producers of child pornography are also involved in the abduction or kidnapping of children. Therefore, for the sake of avoiding breaking the law and protecting children, please stay away from and resist child pornography.
I hope everyone can learn from this and never test the limits of the law.