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The parents of an Iowa City Chinese student who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in her bedroom have been accused of trying to bribe the alleged victim into changing her story.
The development in the case was reported on Saturday by China News Service. The story was prominently featured on Sunday on many news portals in China and Iowa, triggering heated online discussions.
Tang Peng, a 21-year-old Chinese student, was arrested on March 30 on suspicion of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman.
According to police, Tang contacted the woman after she listed her apartment on a subleasing website and made an appointment to see it on March 29. After arriving at the apartment, Tang asked the woman to show him the bedroom. After entering, Tang allegedly sexually assaulted the woman, the Iowa City Press-Citizen newspaper quoted police as saying.
Tang found her through renren.com, a social network website that caters to Chinese nationals, said an online story of local news portal iowacity.patch.com.
It said that the subletting advertisement was written in Chinese.
Tang is accused of taking sexually explicit pictures of the woman before leaving and threatening to post them online if she contacted police, authorities said.
Tang was arraigned on Friday and pleaded not guilty to charges. According to the Iowa City police, Tang was charged with first-degree kidnapping.
Tang Xuefan and Qiao Li, Tang's father and mother, arrived in Iowa on April 5, and asked a person "close" to their son to find the woman, police said.
The parents reportedly tried to persuade the alleged victim to change her story, and they were accused of saying that they were willing to "pay her".
Local police said the woman heard about the alleged plot and informed police. The parents were charged on Wednesday with tampering with a witness or juror. They are currently being held in the Johnson County Jail.
According to US law, tampering with a witness or juror is an aggravated misdemeanor.
A report about the case on sina.com, a leading online Chinese news portal, attracted more than 3,000 comments within the first 16 hours, after being copied and published on Sunday.
The parents chose the wrong way to try to save their child, Chinese netizens commented on the case.
"Money is not always almighty, including in the US. The parents should reflect on themselves rather than covering up the misbehavior of their son," a netizen said.
If Tang is found guilty, it is possible that he will be allowed to return to China to serve his sentence, China News Service said.
Tang is being held in the Johnson County Jail and has been placed on immigration hold.
AP contributed to this story.