By Li Ying
Three girls dressed in "blood" spattered wedding gowns attracted curious crowds and security guards along Qianmen Dajie yesterday, as they took part in a piece of performance art aimed at highlighting the problem of violence against women.
"February 14 is not only Valentine's Day but also V-day. The letter V refers to Victory over Violence," said Hui Jing, 24, organizer of the stunt, one of the female students taking part. The participants numbered around 20, and came from different universities in Beijing.
"Valentine's Day indicates intimate relationships, and we should also be reminded that most domestic violence occurs in intimate relationships," she said.
The "brides" started walking at 11:30 am at the south end of Qianmen. The girls, faces made up as if they were victims of abuse, lifted placards with slogans that included "Love is not an excuse for domestic violence" and "Will you keep silent when violence is around?"
They quickly attracted the attention of passers-by and security guards.
"Your activity has not been legally registered with public security departments," said a guard wearing a chengguan (urban management officer) uniform, ordering them to put on their coats and leave.
They started to walk along Qianmen to the north end of the street, with two guards quietly following them.
"The purpose of calling on people to oppose domestic violence is correct, but unauthorized behavior is incorrect," one of the chengguan officers said.
According to regulations, those who want to assemble and march on streets must apply for permission from a public security bureau five days in advance.
"I initially thought they were shooting a film," said a saleswoman surnamed Ru, who stood among the crowd.
"I think they're very brave. Women, who often stay silent after suffering from domestic abuse, should speak up and fight for their rights," she said.
Another onlooker, surnamed Wang, said he had only recently realized abuse was a problem after Crazy English founder Li Yang was accused of domestic violence by his wife Kim Lee Li.
"More than 30 percent of women in China have suffered from domestic violence," said Guo Jianmei, a Beijing-based non-profit lawyer who specializes in women's rights.
Guo said that although there are laws protecting women's rights, they are "too abstract, and generally lack explicit regulations toward domestic violence."
"Police and law enforcement officials should change their old attitudes that domestic violence is only a domestic affair, and make more effort to help women who suffer from it," noted Guo."