video of beating revives debate on violence against women

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For four long minutes, women are brutally beaten up by a group of men. The scene took place on June 10 at a restaurant in Tangshan, Hebei Province, northeast China. Filmed by surveillance cameras, the attack has revived the debate on violence against women in China.

The scene is filmed by two surveillance cameras, one located inside and the other placed on the terrace of the restaurant. The video may shock, we decided to broadcast only screenshots.

Screenshot from the video. The woman in white sitting with her friends tries to fend off the man in the khaki jacket. © France 24 Observers

Following the scene outside the restaurant.  A woman helps another, who was thrown to the ground.  The man in the white t-shirt walks towards her, then hits her again.
Following the scene outside the restaurant. A woman helps another, who was thrown to the ground. The man in the white t-shirt walks towards her, then hits her again. © France 24 Observers

On the video, we see a man wearing a khaki jacket touching the back of a woman dressed in white, who is eating with two friends. She pushes him away twice with her hand, before he hits him in the face. An escalation of violence ensues: the woman in white and her friend try to defend themselves by throwing bottles in her face. Several men then rush to the scene and beat the two women: one is beaten with a chair, the other is dragged by the hair outside the restaurant where she is beaten.

A second surveillance camera films the rest of the scene outside the restaurant. Once on the terrace, the men continue to attack one of the women, punching and kicking her. Throughout the scene, women who try to intervene are also more violent. One of them is projected on stairs in front of the restaurant.

Nine men involved in the case have been arrested as of June 13, according to Global Time, which also states that two of the victims, subsequently in hospital, were in stable condition. In Chinese media and online, the case has been linked in particular to the gangs that are rampant in Tangshan.

But on Chinese social networks, the video above all reignited the debate around violence against women in China.

On Weibo (equivalent to Twitter in China), hashtags linked to the video of the assault garnered hundreds of millions of views over the weekend of June 11-12.

For several users, these images showed above all that gender-based violence is still too common in China. “The fundamental problem of this incident is the social status of Chinese women,” said a very popular comment on Weibo, which generated 146,000 likes.

Online solidarity

Many of the women identifying with those in the video expressed their solidarity on Weibo:

The translated post below scored 146,000 mentions
The translated post below shows 146,000 likes. © Weibo

They were just friends who had met after work and were badly beaten for refusing to start a conversation. If we don’t say anything today, we know very well who will be next.

Comments posted in reaction to the video of the assault, along with the hashtag
Comments posted in response to the video of the assault, along with the hashtag “Tangshan Women’s Federation Responds to Assault in Barbecue”. Translation of the 1st and 2nd comment below © Weibo

I like to eat grilled meats in restaurants: so that could be me. I like to party with my friends, so that could be me. If I get bullied and resist, it could happen to me. I don’t know how to defend myself, so it could be me!

“The fundamental problem of this incident is the social status of Chinese women.”

Some also pointed to the passivity of certain people present at the scene at the time of the attack. “No man stands up to help the girls” can we read in a comment. “Why don’t any of the people around call the police ?”, asks another.

On Weibo, users have tried to find extenuating circumstances for the attackers, confirming for example the fact that they were intoxicated, or that the assaulted women hit them back at first. Many women have stepped up to denounce these arguments.

A user thus compares those who make this kind of speech to the passive men on the video who watch the scene:

The post has nearly 60,000 mentions
The post has nearly 60,000 likes. Translation below © Weibo

I spent the night on Weibo, I didn’t see a single man express a sense of shame (…). Some were quick to distance themselves, advising women not to respond in case of aggression (…).

I then understood why dozens of men in the restaurant could stand still and watch without flinching several girls being violently beaten. What they were thinking is like the speech of [certains] men on the internet.

Did this little barbecue bring together a dozen of the worst and most indifferent men in the country? No, they are just the embodiment of a male ideology, patriarchy (…)”

Several Internet users denounce, like this user, a deeper social problem. As in this comment on Weibo:

“Why teach girls to protect themselves? This society should teach boys to respect women (…).”

In the days following the incident, calls for respect for women multiplied on Weibo. But at the same time, several users have called for avoiding a general reading of the event, arguing that it could have happened “to both men and women” and summoning to avoid a “war of the sexes”. This reading grid, which particularly highlights the issue of gang crime, seems to be organized moreover favored by the local authorities.

The complicated debate on violence against women

Violence against women is regularly in the news in China. In January 2022, the fate of a woman chained by her husband had social networks boiling, and prompted Prime Minister Li Keqiang to pledge to end the trafficking of women and children in the country.

However, the debate around violence against women must deal with censorship. On social networks, several hashtags related to feminism are censored. And some women, who have accused influential men of sexual violence, are being silenced. In the debate that followed the broadcast of the video in the barbecue, Weibo also announced that it had suspended nearly a thousand accounts, which among other things fueled the gender war reported to The New York Times.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS SITE : #MeToo in China: faced with hyper-reactive censorship, feminists condemned to anonymity

Last February, it thus became impossible to evoke Peng Shuai, the tennis player who accused the ex-vice-prime minister Zhang Gaoli of rape. She had even completely disappeared from public life following this affair, before reappearing and denying that she had made such accusations.

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