Social media users in China demand answers on status of women beaten up in Tangshan incident

The women were pummelled badly after one of them refused the advances of a man.

Kayla Wong | June 20, 2022, 10:51 PM

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The status of the young women who were hospitalised after being brutally beaten by a group of men in China is currently in question.

Two out of the four women, who were dining at a barbecue restaurant, had sustained extensive injuries after they were assaulted by a group following an exchange in which one of the women rejected the advances of a man.

The incident, which happened in the early morning of June 10, around 2:40am, in the city of Tangshan in Hebei province, unfolded in front of stunned diners, who watched on as the beatings continued.

Warning: Graphic content ahead. Reader discretion is advised.

Authorities try to dispel rumours that women died

Speculation regarding the women's health status were rife on the Chinese intranet, as social media users feared that at least one of the women had died from her injuries.

On June 11, an official "rumour-dispelling" account by Weibo, denied that any of the women in the unfortunate incident had died.

The Tangshan Women's Federation also attempted to dispel the rumour on June 13 by saying that the condition of the two patients was stable, Tian Mu News reported.

A hospital staff also said the women were already transferred out from the intensive care unit into a normal hospital ward.

Hospital staff's ambiguous answer sparked anger

Social media users, however, were not appeased by the explanation, and amid the lack of further information on the women's status, or word from their immediate family, suspected that their condition was worse than what was revealed officially.

A commenter wrote, "Let the victims themselves come out and say something, the rumour would then be banished. Can't they speak for themselves?"

Subsequently, on June 17, a hospital staff, in response to a China News Weekly reporter's question on whether one of the women had died, said she "wasn't clear", before saying, "This (news of the death) should certainly is not (true)."

The staff's reply stirred anger among Chinese online, who felt that the hospital was being unnecessarily vague.

Demanded clarifications on women's status

Several commenters expressed their opinion that rumours surrounding the women's status had only grown and festered due to the lack of credible information from an authoritative source.

Many social media users also noticed that videos of the incident could no longer be found on Weibo, and that multiple posts discussing the incident were also taken down -- suggesting that the platform's censorship apparatus had been swiftly activated.

These observations had led some to wonder how such a high-profile case, which has invoked nationwide concern for the women, has so little information available from official institutions in the country.

There were also claims that a surveillance camera that was installed in the alleyway next to the restaurant had been removed, sparking speculations that it was to prevent certain damning video evidence from surfacing.

Adding to frustrations surrounding the lack of accountability regarding the women is an account by a man who claimed he was a journalist from Guizhou province.

He alleged that he was detained by police in Tangshan after simply filming a man who was playing funeral music outside the restaurant. The man had apparently urinated outside as well before leaving.

The journalist also claimed that he was treated roughly and threatened by the police officers, before being released.

Former CCTV host condemns attacks

There is also speculation that some of the men are gangsters who are under the protection of corrupt police officers.

According to several Taiwanese and Hong Kong news outlets, which cited Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, three of the men are members of a Jiangsu gang called "Tian An She" (天安社).

Notably, in a video he recorded of himself speaking, former CCTV host Zhao Pu opined that simply arresting the criminals does not solve the deeper systemic problem of criminals reoffending again, as a good number of those in the group were "habitual criminals" who were arrested previously for other crimes.

Comments that suggest lack of women rights in China censored

His claims, seen as a daring exposé of sorts by social media users, appear to be in line with what appears to be the authorities' approach so far of associating the crime with gangster activities, rather than the arguably more relevant explanation of a deep-seated problem of gender-based violence that is disproportionately skewed against women in China.

Many discussions that bring in women's rights or the notion of entrenched misogyny in the Chinese society had also apparently been silenced on Weibo, according to a former content moderator at Weibo, Liu Liyou.

Speaking to U.S. government funded non-profit news service Radio Free Asia, he said while these posts and comments were removed, posts that highlight police actions taken to tackle gang activities and strengthen public security have been amplified instead.

Conversation captured by surveillance camera revealed man's intentions

Since the unprovoked attack came to light, people throughout the country were appalled by the sheer viciousness of the men who dared to commit the crime in a public space with several eyewitnesses around, as well as the lack of intervention by the bystanders present.

The motives of the men were later revealed to be more than just retaliation for a bruised ego, as social media users found out from a brief conversation between the men that was captured by the surveillance camera in the restaurant.

Before the man first approached the woman, he had apparently told his companions, after glancing over at the group of women, that they should just "drag the girls to the roadside and f*** them", according to NetEase.

Thereafter, he could even be heard saying to the woman, after touching her back, that he wanted to "f*** her", to which the woman responded by saying, "You're sick! Go away!"

The man, incensed by her lack of reciprocity, then punched her, leading her friend to fight back in an attempt to defend her.

The situation then escalated, with one of the men dragging the woman by the hair out of the restaurant, before proceeding to pummel her.

A total of seven men and two women were arrested in relation to the incident by June 11 -- 36 hours after the beatings occurred -- even though some fled to Jiangsu province, the Chinese government's official media Xinhua reported.

Top image adapted via Weibo