A Chinese law professor’s comments about a high-profile rape case have drawn widespread condemnation.

Yi Yanyou, a criminal procedure professor and director of the Centre for Evidence Law at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, was addressing the ongoing trial of 17-year-old Li Tianyi, the son of a high-ranking military officer, who is accused of participating in the gang rape of a nightclub hostess.

According to the South China Morning Post, Li’s family has been suggesting the woman was a prostitute, though the victim has denied this. Using his Weibo microblogging account, Yi appeared to be saying it was smart for the defense to insinuate that the victim was a sex worker.

“Underscoring the fact that the victim is an escort girl … is relevant because they tend to consent to sex more easily,” Yi wrote. “In addition, raping escorts is less harmful than raping ordinary women.”

Yi’s comments immediately drew sharp criticism from other Weibo users. His post was soon deleted but images of it were widely shown by local media.

“A law professor from one of China’s best universities think it’s less harmful to commit crimes against one group of people than the other,” said one post translated by the Offbeat China blog. “Now we know why some convicts live but others die for the same kind of economic crimes.”

The AFP reported that social critic and author Li Chengpeng said Yi was essentially saying it was less harmful for officials to beat street vendors than shop owners.

"A lot of people in China have this shameful logic," Li said on Weibo.

Yi, who was a visiting scholar this past spring at Yale Law School’s China Center, is a frequent writer and media commenter on Chinese criminal procedure.

Li Tianyi’s father is a well-known singer of patriotic songs and holds the rank of general in the Chinese army. The case has drawn enormous attention as public anger has risen over the wealth and privilege enjoyed by high-ranking officials in China.