Nine men in China’s northern city of Tangshan have been detained after several women were beaten up badly in a brawl at a barbecue restaurant, sending two of them to hospital.
The row erupted after one of the nine harassed a woman dining there and slapped her when she rejected him.
Viral security camera footage from Friday’s (June 10) incident shows a man entering the eatery in the steel city of Hebei province and walking over to a group of four women dining there. He then appears to speak to one of them and put his hand on her back. She pushes him away twice, upon which he slaps her and gets into a fight with the others at the table.
A group of men then rush into the shop and assault the women, kicking them and throwing a chair before dragging them outside to continue the beating.
“The suspect, Chen, entered the barbecue shop and harassed one of the four women dining there and beat her, then his peers rushed into the shop, beat the victims, dragged them outside and kept beating them,” Tangshan police said on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
Two men were detained on Friday night, and the seven others on Saturday.
Two of the women were being treated at hospital, while the others suffered lighter injuries, the statement said.
Reacting to the news, Tangshan Communist Party chief Wu Weidong said violence must be punished according to the law, the official Tangshan Labour Daily reported. The city needed to launch a campaign against “gangsters and evil forces”, Wu told a party meeting, the report said.
Yidong Yanzhao, a Hebei-based charity organisation, has offered to provide medical and legal aid for the victims. In a post on messaging platform WeChat, it also said it would set up a fund to reward good Samaritans, including five women at the restaurant who helped the victims.
The incident has shocked China, with thousands of web users, especially women, expressing anger and fear over such fierce gender-based violence in a crowded public venue. Related topics on Weibo were read over 1 billion times.
“She was just eating, not by herself, in a crowded restaurant, and she was beaten to the point she couldn’t fight back,” Beijing-based web user Tiffany Chen said. “Isn’t that scary? We need a safe environment, that’s basic human rights.”
The latest outrage comes close on the heels of the “chained woman ” scandal that sparked an outpouring of public anger, after the mother of eight was found chained up by the neck in a hut in eastern China.
The Tangshan woman and the chained woman exemplified the precarious living conditions for women in the country, said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. She said the reason for the persistence of such gender-based violence was impunity.
“The reason that these men felt they could freely assault the woman for rejecting their harassment is that so many men in the past have gone unpunished for doing the same,” Wang said.
“The seemingly omnipotent government that is so swift at punishing people for their criticism of the government has shown little interest in combating gender-based violence and ensuring the safety of women.”
The chained woman had surfaced in a video in January from a village in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, which showed her sitting in a hut with a chain around her neck, and in thin clothing despite freezing temperatures. Nationwide outrage prompted an investigation that found she had been kidnapped and sold decades ago. At least 17 local officials were sacked or otherwise punished over the case.