Trio Accused of Torturing Fellow Student From China in Rowland Heights Are Sentenced

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Yunyao Zhai steps into court for sentencing hearing. Zhai is one of three high school students from China that were sentenced for their roles in the kidnapping and assault of another Chinese teenager. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Two young women and a man, all 19-year-old Chinese nationals who came to the U.S. and attended high school in Southern California, were sentenced Wednesday in connection with assaults on fellow “parachute kids,” including one attack that lasted for hours.

The sentences were announced by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which said the defendants had pleaded no contest as an earlier date.

Yunyao Zhai was sentenced to 13 years in state prison. She had assaulted a 16-year-old girl at a Rowland Heights restaurant and park, punching and slapping the victim, according to the DA’s office.

Her co-defendant, Xinlei Zhang, was accused in the same attack, which occurred on March 28. Zhang, who is male, was sentenced to six years in state prison.

Xinlei "John" Zhang was sentenced to six years for his role in the in the kidnapping and assault of another Chinese teenager. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Xinlei “John” Zhang was sentenced to six years for his role in the in the kidnapping and assault of another Chinese teenager. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Two days after the first attack, Zhai, Zhang and a third defendant, Yuhan Yang, kidnapped an 18-year-old girl from an ice cream store in Rowland Heights.

They took the teen to Rowland Heights Country Park, where she was stripped naked, spat upon, kicked, punched and beaten, the DA’s office said.

Yiran “Camellia” Liu testified that she was kicked with high-heeled shoes, slapped and burned with cigarettes, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The attackers cut off the victim’s hair, making her eat it, according to the DA’s office.

The attack lasted more than five hours.

All three suspects pleaded no contest to kidnapping and assault.

A prosecutor told the Times that his office agreed to drop torture charges against the teens because they had no criminal history and a conviction on the charge could bring a life sentence.

Yang was sentenced to 10 years in state prison.

She was arrested more than two weeks after Zhai and Zhang, who were taken into custody shortly after the second assault.

Investigators believe additional teens who were involved in the incidents have fled the country, the Times reported.

The suspects are among the so-called “parachute kids” who arrive in the U.S. — many of them in San Gabriel Valley — to attend school without the support of their families.

The young Chinese nationals often pay for room and board at private homes and attend private schools, according to the Times.

The number of high school students on study visas increased from about 1,700 in 2009 to 80,000 in 2014, the Times reported in July, citing the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel.

The majority of those living in California are from China.