A primary school headmaster in a rural Chinese village was given the death sentence for sexually abusing six young girls, according to mainland media Changjiang News.

The victims, aged eight to 13, were molested and raped in their classrooms and teachers’ office by their 41-year-old headmaster Yang Dazhi between 2010 and 2014, a court in southwestern China’s Guizhou Province found.

primary school sexual assault
The Xianjin Primary School in Qixingguan District, Bijie Prefecture, Guizhou. Photo: 李澄钺.

Yang, former head of the Xianjin Primary School in Bijie Prefecture, was arrested in May 2014. He and his wife, a village official, tried to bribe the victims’ families into keeping silent by giving them each RMB50,000 to RMB100,000 as “government allowance”, Changjiang News reported citing the verdict, which was handed down in May this year.

Parents of the victims filed an appeal after the court turned down their request for compensation for physical and mental damages done to the girls, the report said.

Bijie Prefecture, a poor mountainous area in Guizhou, has made national news multiple times in the past three years for the plight of the “left-behind children”, whose parents left them to work in big cities. In 2012, five left-behind children were found dead in a garbage station, where they had taken shelter against the winter cold. In 2014, a primary school teacher was arrested for sexually abusing at least ten girls. In 2015, four children committed suicide at home by drinking pesticide.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.