CHINA

Chinese police face consequences after video shows them beating women

Chinese policemen beat women during a forced eviction in this screengrab taken from the video below
Chinese policemen beat women during a forced eviction in this screengrab taken from the video below

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The footage shows women and at least one child cowering alongside a building as local police savagely beat them with batons. This viral video captured violence that took place during the demolition of illegal buildings in the southern Chinese province of Hainan. Unfortunately, police violence is not a rare occurrence in China... but this time, the public outcry over the video resulted in the perpetrators being held accountable. 

According to Chinese media, workers had been trying to remove residents of illegal dwellings on land slated for construction in the village of Quionghua outside of Haikou City. The violence took place when a demolition crew arrived, including members of the Chengguan. These municipal police operate separately from China’s conventional police force, often dealing with smaller issues like the regulation of street vendors, squatters and unlicenced construction sites.

Chinese media reported that residents did not want to leave without a fight and began throwing rocks, bricks and lit gas canisters at the police, which prompted their heavy-handed response. Eleven locals were supposedly arrested in the clashes.

However, the video does not show any aggression on the part of the victims. On the contrary, the victims, who seem to be mostly women and children, are sitting on the ground, lined up with their backs against the wall of the building, as if forced or instructed to sit there. As the victims crouch there, police come up and swing batons at them, hitting them one by one. The people cower and scream but do not fight back or make an attempt to escape. They seem trapped by fear. The sound of collective wailing can be heard in the background, as if the whole community is in mourning.

The video was widely circulated on Chinese social media last week and prompted widespread outrage, forcing local authorities to give a rare public response to police violence.

In the outcry following the release of the video, the official in charge of the demolition project stepped down and two more officials were dismissed, according to the New York Times. In a press conference held on Saturday, local authorities said seven police officers had been arrested in connection to the video. Many social media users, however, expressed the need for a more severe punishment.

"Dismissed? Detained? These men should be executed," commented one person on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

The municipal police are often accused of violence in China. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 150 incidences of violence involving the chengguan were reported by the Chinese media between 2010 and 2012.

Violent clashes around property rights are another frequent occurence in China, often when people are evicted or forced from illegal dwellings to make way for construction. Our team covered a similar story several weeks ago when violent clashes between locals and officials broke out when construction began on contested land near an art school in Xinle City in Hebei province.