HONG KONG—A court in China has handed down harsh sentences to members of a gang who carried out a brutal attack on several women in a restaurant three months ago that shocked the country with its violence and reignited debate over gender inequality.
Seven members were found guilty of participating in the assault and, along with 21 others, of committing a series of serious crimes over the past decade, according to a social media post from the Guangyang District Court in Hebei province in the North China. They received prison sentences ranging from six months to 24 years, he said.
The prison terms are expected to quell the debate over the failure to protect women’s rights that the assault ignited, though the court did not address the issue directly in its five-paragraph account of the case and ruling. Under Chinese law, 25 years is the maximum sentence without life imprisonment or death. Other criminal activities carried out by the gang since 2012 included robberies, illegal imprisonment, and running illegal casinos.
Despite the brutality of the attack, the four women suffered minor injuries, according to the court publication. By convicting the perpetrators as part of a criminal gang and charging them with other crimes committed over the years, the court was able to deliver sentences that would satisfy the public, the lawyers said. Still, due to the opaque nature of the investigation and trial, it was also unclear how much of each sentence was due to the restaurant assault and how much to the other crimes, or whether jail time was an appropriate punishment for what had happened. each defendant made. , they said.
“Court verdicts are supposed to provide guidance on social values,” said Wang Shengsheng, a lawyer who specializes in criminal law at the Guangdong Times Law Office, adding that the verdict failed to alleviate feelings of insecurity and anxiety felt by women in China.
Chinese officials have been trying to guide public opinion on the nature of the attack, labeling it pure gang violence rather than a women’s rights issue, said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Shifting the public’s attention from gender-based violence to gang-related violence shows the ability of Chinese officials to manipulate public opinion,” Ms. Wang said before the ruling was published. “Many in the future will only remember it as gang violence.”
The case caused a furor after a video began circulating online on June 10 showing men attacking some women at a barbecue restaurant in Tangshan, Hebei province. In CCTV footage, a man in a dark green jacket, later identified as Chen Jizhi, 41, walks towards a table where three women are sitting. Mr. Chen could be seen putting his hand on one of them, who was wearing a white T-shirt, and then pushed him away. Mr. Chen began to assault her and other women who came to her aid. Her friends joined. The women were dragged to the ground, where the men continued to beat them; the sound of heavy punching is heard in the video.
The video went viral and reignited public anger over gender inequality in the world’s second-largest economy, where women’s position in society has not always lived up to decades of rising prosperity. Earlier this year, images showing a woman chained by the neck in a shed in Jiangsu province, a relatively prosperous region in eastern China, shocked the country. Authorities later confirmed that the mother of eight children had been sold into marriage and arrested her husband.
When Hebei provincial authorities in August charged the 28 people as part of a criminal gang, they also said they were investigating whether local police were providing protection to the criminal groups.
Friday’s court ruling ordered the seven gang members who participated in the assault to pay compensation, including medical costs and lost income.
The verdict received wide applause on Chinese social media. A post of the news on state media received around 1.2 million likes in the early afternoon.
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