China sentences man who attacked women at barbecue restaurant to 24 years in prison

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BEIJING: The main perpetrator of an assault against a group of women at a barbecue restaurant in China was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Friday (Sep 23), 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 Jun 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.

The authorities have painted the incident as a gang-related crime, despite calls for a reckoning over violence against women after footage of the attack was widely shared.

Viral online essays slamming the attack as symbolic of the country's larger problem of gender-based violence were censored.

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 in addition to the 24-year prison sentence, and 27 accomplices were given sentences ranging from six months to 11 years.

Discussions of feminism have grown in China despite resistance, widespread censorship and patchy legal support for victims of violence.

Women's rights campaigners say domestic abuse remains pervasive and under-reported in China, while prominent feminists also face regular police harassment and detention.

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