9 arrested after aggravated assault on women in northern China

HONG KONG – Chinese authorities arrested nine people suspected of violently abusing several women at a restaurant after surveillance footage of the attack sparked widespread outrage.

Footage from a grill restaurant in Tangshan in northern Hebei province, time-stamped at 02.40 on Friday, one of the men appeared near a table where a party of four women sat and put his hand on the back of a woman.

She rejected him several times before he became furious and hit her, causing her to fight back. A fight ensued, with a group of men entering the restaurant and brutally attacking the woman and her dining partners, including pushing them to the ground, kicking them and even throwing a chair at them.

Footage taken from outside the restaurant also showed that the attackers dragged the woman who had rejected the man’s push out of the establishment and beat her viciously while most passers-by and guests watched.

Photographs of her lying on a stretcher, with a swollen and bloody face, as well as footage of the attack, went viral online.

The abuse and the public outcry renewed a conversation about misogyny and mistreatment of women in China. Earlier this year, a viral video of a woman being chained to a wall in a cabin received public backlash after authorities initially denied she was a victim of human trafficking. It was later found that she was sold as a bride.

All nine suspects were arrested on Saturday, according to a statement from authorities issued on the Weibo microblogging platform.

Two women had sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were being treated in hospital. Their condition was reported to be stable. Two others were slightly injured.

The recording of what happened both inside and outside the restaurant took less than five minutes. The Weibo user, who was among the first to post the videos, said in a post that it was “heartbreaking” to watch.

“Does that mean it’s so unsafe to eat out now, we have to take men with us everywhere we go?” read the post. “(These men) are no different from thugs.”

When reached, the user refused to reveal the source of the videos, saying it was “inconvenient” to do so. On Sunday, the video of the footage filmed inside the restaurant had received over 68 million views, while the footage showing the graphic attack outside the restaurant had been removed.

Social media users have condemned the attack and criticized the Tangshan police for being slow to arrest the suspects.

“I’m a woman and I have a daughter,” said a Weibo user with the BaobaomaoDaren handle. “I wonder – since I am creating value for society and spreading positive energy, will this society protect me and my child?”

The state broadcaster CCTV said in an online comment that the suspects must be arrested as soon as possible and “punished strictly in accordance with the law” to be accountable to the victims and the public.