Violent Crime Wave Hits Central China

Chinese state media on Monday reluctantly acknowledged a growing problem with violent crime and gang activity in central China after public attention was captivated by a disturbing video of several women suffering a brutal assault in a barbecue restaurant.

The viral video, recorded by CCTV cameras in the city of Tangshan on Friday, showed a man becoming sexually aggressive with a woman while she was eating at the restaurant. When she spurned his advances, the man and a group of his friends dragged her outside and viciously beat her. Other women who tried to intervene were assaulted as well and dragged outside by their hair.

Dissident artist Badiucao posted videos of the incident, along with photos of the savagely battered women, plus photos of other women assaulted in a similar manner recently.

Warning – Graphic: 

“Make no mistake, this is not an individual case. It’s so common like hell in China,” Badiucao said, echoing the sentiments of many others online.

“The reason that these men felt they could freely assault the woman for rejecting their harassment is because so many men in the past have gone unpunished by the authorities for doing the same,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang observed.

Prodded by an outcry on Chinese social media, Tangshan officials launched a two-week anti-crime blitz called Operation Thunderstorm, placing special emphasis on street fighting and assaults against women. A high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official in Tangshan vowed to eradicate “gangsters and evil forces.”

Tangshan police said two of the women beaten in the barbecue restaurant video have been hospitalized from their injuries. Seven men and two women were detained in connection with the assault.

China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday blamed the crime problem in Tangshan and other central cities on organized crime, which can apparently operate with little fear of the police in central China:

The series of recent grievous incidents hit a raw nerve of the public when they happened against the background of a national campaign of cracking down on gang crimes. Many people questioned why the law lost its deterrent in Tangshan.

Considering that the city had hit top trending topic on social media for three times over a course a bit longer than a month, including two other absurd incidents in April and May when a farmer was forced to exert self-criticism for working in his own farm that went against local epidemic prevention protocol, and residents in Qian’an of Tangshan were locked in their homes with their keys handed over for the epidemic prevention and control, netizens demand a thorough investigation into the criminal gangs in the city.

A commentary published by Guangming Daily said that these social events indicated the failure of social governance due to the loss of deterrent laws and the slow and difficult development of the rule of law. The damage it has caused on justice and public policy sounded an alert to policymakers.

China is a brutal police state that has no problem with herding millions of people into concentration camps or sealing them in their homes for months on end during coronavirus lockdowns, so it is a little odd to hear state media describe the central provinces as lawless pits of anarchy.

The Global Times would seem to be suggesting that enforcing coronavirus lockdowns drained the police of manpower needed to fight organized crime, and perhaps that public resentment of the lockdowns created an atmosphere of disobedience in which crime could flourish.

Analysts less friendly to the Chinese Communist Party suggest the party created a permissive atmosphere toward violence against women by silencing those who complain about sexual harassment and domestic abuse. Horrified Chinese social media users noted that the men involved in the Friday assault must have known their actions were captured on camera and they would be easily identified, but they did not seem to care.

“China only made domestic violence punishable by law in March 2016. Before 2001, physical abuse was not even grounds for divorce,” the BBC observed on Saturday.

“Even though sexual violence has become more prosecutable, the atmosphere on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo is despondent. Many feel the outcome of this case will be a light sentence and a small fine,” the BBC said of the barbecue restaurant assault.

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