Tangshan launches special campaign against crimes in wake of brutality in restaurant
Five of nine arrested have criminal records, police say
Published: Jun 12, 2022 10:23 PM
The barbecue restaurant involved in the harassment and beating incident has been temporarily closed. Photo: VCG

The barbecue restaurant involved in the harassment and beating incident has been temporarily closed. Photo: VCG

Tangshan in North China's Hebei Province on Sunday launched a special campaign against crimes across the city with a heavy punch and no mercy, following the arrest of nine suspects involved in the harassment and beating incident at a local barbecue restaurant, which made headlines across China.

Led by dual commanders in chief, Party chief and city mayor, the campaign, called "Thunderstorm," targets illegal acts such as fighting, provoking trouble, intentional injury and insulting women. The scope of the campaign also extends to extortion, bullying, gambling, drug use and cybercrimes, as well as dereliction of duty, cover-ups and conniving at crimes.

In the half-month campaign, Tangshan authority said the city will arrange senior police street patrols, build an all-round, three-dimensional prevention and control system, and respond to criminal acts at the fastest speed.

The campaign came after the violent attack at the barbecue restaurant ignited the internet and triggered a national heated discussion about the protection of women and public security. The public called for a thorough investigation and strict punishment of the suspects for such brutal violence.

On Sunday, nine suspects have been approved to be arrested by the local procuratorate authorities. The Hebei provincial public security department has ordered the Guangyang public security sub-bureau of the neighboring city of Langfang city to take over the case from Tangshan's public security bureau. It is believed this will ensure a fair handling of the case.

Xing Tao, deputy head of the Lubei branch of Tangshan Public Security Bureau, told Chinese media on Sunday that initial investigation showed that five suspects had criminal records with crimes of causing troubles, illegal detention of others and intentional injury.

In the wake of this case, more residents reported about organized criminal gangs and their crimes in Tangshan over the weekend. The series of recent grievous incidents hit a raw nerve of the public when they happened against the background of a national campaign of cracking down on gang crimes. Many people questioned why the law lost its deterrent in Tangshan.

"The reason why the case reverberates throughout the nation is it affects the public's sense of security toward society, as the assault methods throughout are not something cunning or highly intelligent, but so ordinary. This makes people believe it is a scenario that could happen to anyone," Shen Yi, a professor specializing in cyberspace at Fudan University, told Global Times on Sunday.

A viral commentary published by Jiancha Ribao, a daily newspaper run by China's highest prosecuting office, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, said that violent cases such as this are at odds with the broader safe national context, and that is one of the reasons that it's been perceived as absolutely outrageous and unacceptable by the public. 

Since China has launch its targeted campaign against gang crimes in 2018, the public sense of security has risen every year. Having such a violent case in the modern era of 2022 is not normal, a sign indicating that more deep-rooted security issues such as gang crimes in places like Tangshan could possibly exist, Shen noted.

Data reported by the Xinhua News Agency citing official statistics showed more than 3,600 mafia-like groups busted from 2018 to 2021, 1.3 times as many as the total in the previous 10 years. Another 89,742 cases involving gang crime-related corruption and "protective umbrellas" that shelter gangs were also handled nationwide. 

Jiancha Ribao called for severe punishment of the perpetrators, justice for the victims and a response to public concerns, demanding the government further fortify the security barrier against any gang crimes and dismiss the shadows cast by this case to give the people a greater sense of happiness, and confidence in a peaceful and secure China. 

Amid the Tangshan case, local governments in multiple cities across the nation including Baoding, Qinhuangdao in Hebei, Pingyao in North China's Shanxi Province, and others in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Gansu Province also launched special campaigns, calling for enhanced inspection at night markets, shopping malls and barbecue stalls, and raising alerts to crackdown on potential crimes.

Amid calls for justice for the victims and a response to public concerns, many legal experts said how the court will judge the suspects should be based on the results of the investigation and the degree of injury and damage to the victims. As for speculation about whether the suspects are involved in organized gangs, further investigation will be required, they stressed. 

Lü Xiaoquan, a Beijing-based lawyer, told the Global Times on Sunday that the main perpetrators of the incident may be suspected of intentional injury or the crime of provoking trouble. 

Specific penalties will depend on investigations of injuries, the identification of victims, on facts, the nature and circumstances of the case and the degree of harm to society. 

If their acts simultaneously meet the definitions of several crimes, the penalty will be issued in accordance with a crime that carries a heavier punishment, Lü said. 

Article 234 of the Criminal Law stipulates that whoever intentionally injures another person shall be sentenced to up to three years. If their acts cause serious injury to the other, they could face a jail term of three to 10 years. If their acts cause deaths or disability, by especially cruel means, they shall be sentenced to no less than 10 years, life imprisonment or death.

A lawyer named Wan Miaoyan told the Global Times that if the victims were not seriously injured, but the suspects were found to have had repeated cases of provoking troubles, the sentence could be five to 10 years.