China has arrested nine men after video footage of a vicious attack on a group of female diners at a barbecue restaurant sparked outrage and debate on women’s rights on social media.
The attack took place early on Friday in the city of Tangshan, Xinhua news agency reported.
The suspects were arrested on Saturday after a search that spanned two provinces.
Photo: Screen grab from surveillance footage obtained by Reuters
A Tangshan city official vowed to “severely punish” those involved, the report added.
Security footage of the incident shows a man approaching a table of three female diners and putting his hand on one woman’s back. When she resists his advances, the man attacks her and a friend, and several other men pile in. The woman is later dragged outside by her hair, where the men repeatedly beat and kick her as she lays on the ground.
The graphic video was widely shared online in China over the weekend, with the attack still trending on Sina Weibo yesterday morning. Many posters were women sharing their experiences with male aggression.
One woman demanded an apology from a man she said harassed her on a beach late last year.
“Since then, I no longer dare to leave home alone at night,” she wrote, in a post that received more than 1 million likes.
Two members of girl band CKG48 shared a video of being forced to accept a drink from a man, despite repeated polite refusals. That topic was viewed more than 26 million times.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) government has suppressed the country’s nascent #MeToo movement, viewing it as a vehicle for spreading liberal Western values.
As a result, women who have braved China’s patriarchal culture, which often shames victims of sexual assault, have over the past few years been silenced.
Tennis star Peng Shuai (彭帥) last year disappeared from public view for weeks after making allegations of sexual harassment by former Chinese vice president Zhang Gaoli (張高麗).
China Daily dismissed the idea that the Tangshan attack exposed any problem with women’s rights in China in a commentary on Sunday.
“The case is nine males using violence against three females, but it should never be interpreted as any form of sexual antagonism,” the newspaper said.
Liang Xiaowen (梁曉文), a New York-based feminist and lawyer, said that by denying this incident was gender-based violence, Chinese authorities were trying to avoid addressing a problem in society.
“I think women’s voices in the current Chinese society are one of the strongest and loudest, outspoken voices that are constantly challenging the existing system,” Liang said. “That’s why the Chinese government is trying everything they can to try to marginalize women’s voices, or dissenting feminist ideas, and trying to stigmatize feminism as a whole.”
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