China on Monday charged 28 people, including several police officers, in connection with a heinous assault on a group of women at a barbecue restaurant in Tangshan, in June this year. The incident sparked massive outrage over the internet, and discussions around gender-based violence in China have renewed once again.
According to a report produced by Associated Press, “The investigation has gone beyond the actual attack to encompass broader allegations of criminal activity and police corruption in the area.”
The authorities in China said they charged 28 people in the assault case and had been investigating 15 officials, including police officers, for alleged corruption for nearly two months after the videos of the shocking incident went viral over the internet.
The AP report further said, “The attackers were suspected to be part of a gang, and local media reported at the time of the attack that the police response had been slow, prompting concerns that corruption was involved. The 15, including the director of Tangshan’s public security bureau and officers from several police stations, are suspected of abuse of power, bribery, and other job-related crimes. Eight of them have been detained during the investigation.”
Prosecutors from the Hebei province said they would soon begin the legal proceedings against the suspects – including seven people who were directly involved in the assault – in view of the “reliable and sufficient” evidence that they have obtained. However, the charges that were brought against the criminals were not specified by the prosecution.
Surprisingly, on June 10, the assault was carried out by the men after one of the women, identified by her surname Wang, rejected their sexual advances. In the circulated CCTV footage of the incident, it was revealed that one of the men placed his hand on the back of one of the four women who were dining at the same place. Apparently, the woman was uncomfortable with this move and pushed him away. This seemed to have enraged the man, and after he struck her, others dragged her outside and, as she lay on the ground, pounded her with blows and kicks. Another woman was also knocked to the floor. While the third woman suffered minor injuries, two women spent 11 days in the hospital.
In a statement issued by the police, the primary suspect, Chen, was identified as a member of the local gang. The statement read that he “recklessly used violence to commit evil.”
The state-run tabloid Global Times reported that Chen and six of his gang members also used chairs and beer bottles to beat up Wang and three of her friends.
In the aftermath of the incident, the news outlets in the country were quick to acknowledge that the attack reflected a toxic “patriarchal system” in China. Chinese netizens also raised many ethical questions given the sheer brazenness of the incident and given that the suspects were well aware that they were in a public place and under the scrutiny of CCTV cameras.
Social scientists and experts say that in a heavily patriarchal system, it is often difficult for the perpetrators of crimes against women to repent for gender-based violence. In many cases, it even gives the perpetrators a ‘masculine’ sense of self-satisfaction.
China has a bad track record of protecting victims of gender-based violence, with the ruling Communist Party placing a heavy burden on the claimant. This is the reason why China’s #MeToo movement failed, and the strict censorship and complex legal system prevented women from speaking against gender-based violence.
According to research conducted by the Institute of Sexuality and Gender Studies of Beijing Forestry University and Anti-domestic Violence Network/Beijing Fan Bao, 75 percent of the men who committed rape did not experience any sort of legal consequences in China. The most common motivation, the report noted, was this belief that men have the right to have sex with women regardless of their consent.
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