Education authorities in South China's Hainan Province Monday told the Global Times that they had dismissed a primary school headmaster who allegedly molested six schoolgirls with another local government official.
Police have detained the headmaster, surnamed Chen, who worked at Houlang Primary School in Wanning city, Hainan, and an official surnamed Feng from the local housing bureau for allegedly assaulting underage girls, Xinhua reported Monday.
The pair were said to have spent the night with six schoolgirls from another primary school in hotel rooms last Wednesday and Thursday.
Xinhua said that a forensic examination showed the suspects did not have sexual intercourse with the girls. The local police authority has asked the provincial forensic department to carry out another examination so as to present the truth to the public.
However, earlier reports from news portal legaldaily.com.cn said the girls were found to have suffered injuries of varying degrees to their private parts.
An official from the education bureau in Wanning told the Global Times Monday that the bureau fired Chen on Monday. "We also sent psychologists to provide counseling to the girls," she said.
Questions about further details of the case were referred to the public security bureau but calls to the bureau and Wanning No.2 Primary School, which the six girls attend, went unanswered on Monday.
Lü Xiaoquan, research director of Beijing Zhongze Women's Legal Counseling and Service Center, told the Global Times the possible charges pressed against the two suspects depend on the evidence collected by the police during their investigation.
"If they had sex with girls under 14, even if it was consensual, they would face charges of raping minors," he told the Global Times.
The Haikou-based Nanguo Metropolis Daily reported that the six girls, aged between 11 and 14, went missing on Wednesday. One of them left a message to her family saying she would be gone for several days.
Surveillance tapes showed Chen and Feng checking in at two hotels in the city with the girls respectively on Wednesday and Thursday. Four girls were found in Haikou, 139 kilometers away from Wanning, on Thursday evening. The last two were found in a resort in suburban Wanning on Friday.
The report said all the six girls were dazed after they were found, and had bruises on their necks and hands. Four girls who went to a karaoke bar Thursday night admitted to drinking alcohol, leading to suspicions that they were drugged.
The news has triggered widespread anger among the public, who demanded severe punishments for the two suspects.
In China, similar cases where people have slept with underage girls led to jail terms of between five and 15 years, while rape convictions can be punishable by death.
Lü, whose organization has long advocated for the abolishment of the crime of prostituting teenage girls in favor of harsher punishments, says it has become a shield for powerful people to evade tougher sentences by making financial compensation to the victims of sexual crimes.
He cited an earlier online poll, saying more than 97 percent of the people surveyed voted for the abolishment of the charge in favor of stricter alternatives.