BEIJING - A court in China has jailed for 24 years the leader of a gang linked to a vicious attack on female diners that spurred a debate about gender equality in the country.
Chen Jizhi's criminal group "acted with impunity to carry out bad deeds, oppress the people, and harm the local economy and public order, having a severe impact on society," the court in the northern city of Langfang just outside Beijing said in a statement on Friday.
Another 27 individuals were handed prison terms ranging from six months to 11 years for beating the women and gang-related crimes dating back to 2012 including robbery, running a casino and illegal detention.
People across China were outraged in June, when video clips posted online showed a group of men beating four female diners at a restaurant in Tangshan, an industrial city some 155km east of Beijing, went viral.
Video from security cameras showed a man dragging one woman by her hair out the front door where she was attacked.
The incident revived the #MeToo movement against gender inequality that President Xi Jinping's government has repeatedly tried to suppress.
Many Chinese women took to social media to post about times they have been mistreated, such as one who said she was afraid to go out alone at night after suffering harassment on a beach.
Mr Xi's government views the debates as a vehicle for spreading liberal Western values, and women who have spoken up about sexual assault have been repeatedly silenced by the nation's patriarchal culture.
There's only one woman on the ruling Communist Party's 25-member Politburo, and she's set to retire from the decision-making body this year.
The episode was still reverberating in China on Friday. The sentencing of the attackers and others in the gang was the top trending topic on the Twitter-like Weibo platform, attracting more than 920 million views.
"Thank you social media for bringing the crimes of the culprits to light," one person wrote. BLOOMBERG