SHANGHAI • Members of a Chinese "auntie gang" of debt collectors have been jailed over a reign of grey terror in which they menaced victims and even stripped naked to get them to cough up, state media said yesterday.
Fourteen of the senior enforcers got jail sentences of up to 11 years after being convicted of "organising, leading and participating in gangster-like organisations and for their provocative and disturbing behaviour", The Beijing News said.
All told, about 30 women with an average age of 50 - some of whom had met while engaging in the common elderly Chinese pastime of dancing in public squares - took part in the scheme in the city of Shangqiu in central Henan province.
The sentences were handed down last month after a four-year spree in which the accused - hired by a property developer and firms that wanted debts paid - used strong-arm tactics to collect the money or forced people from their homes to make way for big construction projects.
They would shout at or insult debtors into submission using loudspeakers and, when that did not work, they spat at them, reports said.
Some female victims reportedly had their clothes torn off if they resisted, while men said the aggressive women would rip off their own clothes to imply they had been sexually assaulted.
One of the ringleaders, a blind woman named Gao Yun, told The Beijing News that the nefarious scheme had been a way to kill time and was "something fun to do".
They never resorted to violence and it was only a "war of words", she said, adding that the prime motivation was wages of about 200 yuan (S$41) a day plus meals.