Video showing brutal beating of women reopens the debate on gender violence in China
Issued on: Modified:
A video shared online shows several women being brutally beaten by a group of men. The scene took place on June 10 in a restaurant in Tangshan, in northeastern China's Hebei province. Captured in surveillance footage, the shocking assault has rekindled the debate on violence against women in China.
Surveillance cameras – one inside and one outside the restaurant – captured the scene. Due to the shocking nature of the video, the FRANCE 24 Observers has decided only to publish screenshots.
In the video, a man wearing a green jacket touches a woman – wearing white and eating with two of her friends – on the back. She pushes him away from her twice before he hits her in the face.
Then, the violence escalates. The woman wearing white and her friend try to defend themselves by throwing bottles at him. Several men rush over and start hitting the two women. They beat one with a chair and drag the other by her hair outside the restaurant where she is beaten as well.
A second security camera captures the rest of the incident. The men continue to attack the woman, punching and kicking her. Some other women try to intervene but are also assaulted by the men. One of these women gets thrown toward the stairs in front of the restaurant.
Nine men involved in the assault were arrested on June 13, according to the English-language Chinese media outlet Global Time, which added that two of the victims were in hospital in stable condition.
Chinese media outlets say that the incident was linked to gangs in Tangshan. However people on Chinese social networks have used the violence to reopen the debate around violence against women in China.
On the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Weibo, hashtags related to the assault received hundreds of millions of views the following weekend.
For many, the video is a reminder that gender-based violence is still an all-too common occurrence in China. "The fundamental problem with this incident is the social status of Chinese women," said one user on Weibo in a comment that garnered nearly 150,000 likes.
Acts of solidarity online
Many women on Weibo found themselves identifying with the victims and shared their support online.
They were just friends who had met up after work and were violently beaten for refusing to engage in conversation. If we don't say anything today, we know very well who will be next.
I like to eat barbecue in restaurants, so that could be me. I like to party with my friends, so it could be me. If I get harassed and I resist, it could be me. I can't defend myself, so it could be me!
The fundamental problem with this incident is the social status of Chinese women
Some also pointed to the apathy of some of the people present at the scene at the time of the attack. "No man stands up to help the girls," reads one comment. "Why don't any of the people around call the police?" wonders another.
On Weibo, some users tried to find excuses for the attackers, such as the fact that they were drunk, or that the women who were attacked returned the blows in the first place. But many women have spoken out against these arguments.
I spent the night on Weibo and I didn't see a single man express a sense of shame [...]. Some were quick to distance themselves, advising women not to respond if they are attacked [...].
I now understand why dozens of men in the restaurant could stand by and watch several girls being violently beaten. What they were thinking was the same as what [some] men were saying on the Internet.
Was this little barbecue restaurant a gathering of a dozen of the worst and most indifferent men in the country? No, they are just the embodiment of a male ideology, patriarchy [...].
Some said that the attack revealed a deeper social problem, like this commenter:
Why teach girls to protect themselves? This society should teach boys to respect women.
In the days that followed the incident, calls for respect for women multiplied on Weibo. But at the same time, several users have appealed to others to avoid a gendered reading of the event, arguing that it could have happened "to men as well as women" and asking people to refrain from starting a "gender war". Local authorities had a similar response.
China’s complicated past with violence against women
Gender-based violence is regularly in the news in China. In January, an incident in which a woman was chained up by her husband sparked outrage on social media, pushing Prime Minister Li Keqiang to pledge to end the trafficking of women and children in the country.
Still, the debate on violence against women has to contend with widespread censorship. Certain hashtags dealing with feminism are censored on Chinese social media. And some women who have accused influential men of sexual assault or harassment have been silenced.
In the debate following the assault of the women at the barbecue restaurant, Weibo said they suspended nearly a thousand accounts that had attempted to fuel friction between men and women, according to the New York Times.
>> Read more on The Observers: Chinese members of the #MeToo movement battle censorship to show support for tennis star Peng Shuai
Last February, after tennis player Peng Shuai accused former vice prime minister Zhang Gaoli of rape, expressions of support for the Chinese #MeToo movement were wiped from social networks. Shuai even disappeared from public life after the controversy, before reappearing and denying that she had ever made such accusations.