BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese college professor has been jailed for running a sex club, whose members were the first to be convicted of "group licentiousness" in 20 years, media reported on Friday.
Ma Yaohai, a 53-year-old computer science professor, was jailed for three and a half years after pleading not guilty to holding orgies and said he would appeal against his sentence, the official China News Service said.
"What we did, we did for our own happiness," Ma told media at a news conference in April at his home, where 14 of his 18 orgies, or "swinging games" as he called them, were held.
"People chose to do it of their own free will and they knew they could stop at any time," he said at the time. "We disturbed no one.
"Marriage is like water. You have to drink it. Swinging is like a cup of wine. You can drink it if you like. If you don't like it, don't drink it."
Eighteen people charged with taking part in the orgies were jailed for up to two and half years.
"Ma received a more severe punishment because he did not admit the malicious and illegal nature of his conduct," the court in eastern Nanjing said.
Ma started his online group in 2007. Participants included office workers, taxi drivers and sales clerks. They were arrested after five were caught having a "party" in a hotel room last August.
Ma's case has sparked debate on whether group licentiousness should be scratched from the law books.
"If no one is being harmed, people's privacy should be protected," one sociologist was quoted as saying.
Others felt Ma's conduct was outrageous.
"Law is based on respect for traditional customs and civilized ethics," said a columnist named Zhi Feng on Xinhuanet.com. "They confounded right and wrong and poisoned the social atmosphere. How dare you say they did no harm to others?"
Reporting by Liu Zhen and Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Nick Macfie