All suspects caught for beating women in barbecue restaurant as high-profile case sparks discussion over gender, gang crimes
Published: Jun 11, 2022 03:44 PM
Photo: screenshot from Sina Weibo

Photo: screenshot from Sina Weibo

All nine suspects have been caught as of Saturday afternoon for harassing and beating women at a barbecue restaurant in Tangshan, North China's Hebei Province, the day before. The incident sparked outrage on Chinese social media platforms with a focus on the protection of women and safeguarding public security.

Two female victims had been sent to the hospital for treatment and were in stable conditions, according to a previous announcement of the police at Friday midnight. The other two females suffered minor injuries and were not hospitalized.

The case first caught public attention on Friday as a footage of the restaurant's surveillance video went viral on social media platforms.

The footage showed that a man in dark green jacket walked up to a girl in white T-shirt in the restaurant and placed his hand on the girl's back. The girl pushed him back and said "what is your problem." The man continued his harassment by trying to touch the girl's face. She pushed him back again and demanded that he stay away from her. The man, irritated by the rejection, slapped her in the face. The girl fought back by smashing a bottle on his head.

As the fight broke out, the man and his other male friends beat the girl and her three other female friends who tried to help her. In the video footage, they pulled the hair of the white T-shirt girl and dragged her out of the restaurant. She was crouching on the ground as the men surrounded and kicked her repeatedly.

The video soon sparked a backlash on social media platforms with netizens calling for a thorough investigation and strict punishment.

Amid public concerns, the police in Tangshan released the first announcement on Weibo around 5 pm on Friday, confirming that the case happened in a local barbecue restaurant. They said they were in full swing to capture the suspects and would not let anyone escape.

Another announcement on Friday midnight gave more details of the case. It said that one of the suspects surnamed Chen harassed and beat one of the victims. Chen's friends dashed into the restaurant and helped him beat the women. They even dragged the woman outside of the restaurant to beat her. Two women got injured in the incident, police said, vowing to deal with the case strictly in accordance with the law.

In the third announcement, the police said that they had caught five suspects of the case including Chen.

Chen was reportedly to be an owner of an aquatic products shop in Tangshan, according to media reports. He previously has been involved in other economic and traffic disputes and has been listed as a person who default on their court orders by a local court.

Quite a few netizens focus on how innocent women could be so violently attacked by men. Others said that they were disappointed seeing that in the video few people stood up to stop the men and help the girls while there were multiple people around.

"This is not just about violence, but about gender. Every woman who takes a glance at the camera footage will be terrified"; "a bunch of men beating a few women like that, this shows nothing but beast in the attackers"; "how unfortunate to see no male pedestrian try to break up the fight," Chinese netizens commented on Sina Weibo.

"Taking the significance of protecting the legitimate rights and interests of women and children, this is an instinctive and direct response of most people. When we see crimes like that, we are angry, especially when the victims are women or children," Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, told Global Times on Saturday.

Shen stressed that troublemakers in a case so severe will absolutely face due punishment in the end.

Zhang Yiwu, a Peking University professor with expertise on cultural studies, echoed the view. The case is a cruel incident of violence, he said, noting that not only women netizens are venting their anger online, male observers are showing the same fury.

Observers sighed that it is indeed painful to see such violence, and worse, with no male bystander lend a helping hand. Yet to the essence, this is not a case about women's rights or gender equality, but about public security.

The case seriously broke through the public's bottom line of social order and morality, and showed a disrespect of the law. It has to be dealt with quickly and strictly to give back the public a sense of security, observers commented.

In a comment on Saturday, Chinese actor Jackie Chan called on the public to say no to violence and to stand up against it.

"I was heartbroken by the case as only girls stood up and supported each other, while male onlookers did nothing. Men should never assault women and a group of people certainly shouldn't beat up an individual. Unfairness always exists somewhere."

The case has also alerted Tangshan authority to enhance local work in cracking down on gang crimes as some netizens questioned whether these people, with such malicious behaviors, are related to any gangs.

Tian Guoliang, mayor of Tangshan, spoke out at a conference on Saturday night, urging to strictly punish the criminals according to the gravity of their actions and ensure justice for the injured, and bringing back peace and social stability.

The Tangshan authority held a meeting on Friday night vowing quick action and strict punishment in accordance to the law on the case. They also announced to review local campaign against gang crimes.

Hebei provincial public security department has ordered the Guangyang public security sub-bureau in neighboring Langfang city to investigate the case. It is believed this will ensure a fair handling of the case.

The suspects of the barbecue restaurant case could be sentenced up to five years in prison for the crime of picking a quarrel and causing trouble, lawyers told media.

The case and its result and impact on the society are all very malicious. And, depending on the video, there was a risk of escalation as the suspects used chairs among other things to beat the women. These factors would all be taken into consideration by the judges when making the sentence, according to lawyers.