The ringleader in an assault against a group of women at a barbecue restaurant in China has been sentenced to 24 years in prison, after the case sparked national debate over gender-based violence.
Chen Jizhi started hitting the women after they rejected his “harassment” in the early hours of June 10 in Tangshan city, east of the capital Beijing, the court said in a statement.
When the women resisted, Chen and his group of friends attacked them with chairs and bottles, the court said, with the four women suffering “light” injuries.
Authorities labelled the incident a gang-related crime, but many who saw footage of the incident, which was shared widely online, have said the attack was symbolic of the country’s larger problem of gender-based violence.
The court said a police investigation after the attack found that Chen had been the ringleader of a gang that “menaced the public”, and that he had committed crimes including opening gambling dens since 2012.
Chen was found guilty of a list of offences, including disorderly behaviour, intentional injury, robbery and “gathering a mob to fight”.
He was fined 320,000 yuan ($68,000) in addition to the 24-year prison sentence, which was handed down on Friday, and 27 accomplices were given sentences ranging from six months to 11 years.
Widespread censorship and patchy legal support for victims of violence have stifled women’s rights in China.
Women’s rights campaigners say domestic abuse remains pervasive and under-reported in China, while prominent feminists also face regular police harassment and detention.