Security footage shared online showed a violent attack on female diners at a restaurant in China, sparking outrage online and a call to revive the #MeToo movement against gender inequality, something President Xi Jinping has tried to suppress.
Security footage of a violent attack against Chinese women dining in a barbecue restaurant has led to the arrest of nine men, and a call to action on the Chinese government, who’s administration has actively tried to suppress the #MeToo movement for gender equality and protection.
The attack took place early Friday morning in the northern city of Tangshan. The footage showed a man approaching a table of three female diners and placing his hand on one of their backs. When the women resisted the man’s touch, he began attacking her and one of her friends before several other men began piling in to attack the women. The woman was then dragged outside by her hair where she was beaten and kicked to the ground.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, nine men have been arrested after officials reviewed the footage and searched through two provinces to find the individuals involved. One Tangshan official vowed that the men involved would be “severely punished,” but that’s not enough for citizens who are tired of seeing avoidable violence against women. Xiaowen Liang, a New York-based feminist and lawyer, recently spoke on the attack and China’s dismissal of this incident as an act of violence against women’s rights.
“Women’s voices in Chinese society are some of the strongest and loudest outspoken voices that are constantly challenging the existing system. That’s why the Chinese government is trying everything it can to try to marginalize women’s voices, or dissenting feminist ideas, and trying to stigmatize feminism as a whole.”
The state-run China Daily newspaper released a statement claiming that “this case should never be interpreted as any form of sexual antagonism. The current ruling Communist Party under President Xi has worked hard to suppress the #MeToo movement throughout China, stating that it’s a vehicle for spreading liberal Western values.
As a result, many women in China who have spoken up against sexual assault, and sexism in general, have been repeatedly silenced. The Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. made headlines recently after they fired a woman who accused a manager of sexual assault.
According to a report from Bloomberg, the debate over women’s rights in China threatened to overshadow the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, as international media outlets were more keen on reporting on the women’s rights issues in China and the multiple scandals within Xi’s own administration.
“Women who have spoken about up sexual assault have been repeatedly silenced by the nation’s patriarchal culture. There’s only one woman in its 25-member top decision making body, the Politburo, and she’s set to retire this year.”
The disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai was one of the biggest concerns during the months leading up to the Games. Shuai disappeared from public view after making allegations against a former vice premier, allegations that have since been completely erased from China’s internet.
Her disappearance led to the United Nations Human Rights Office, the White House, and high-profile athletes like Serena Williams demanding China clarify where Shuai’s whereabouts were.
Weeks after this incident authorities in the eastern province of Jiangsu were accused of downplaying a case in which a mother of eight was filmed being chained by the neck in a doorless hut. Chinese censors removed a letter that was signed by over 100 alumni of Peking University, which was calling on the central government to look into the crime and shine a greater light on the issue of bride trafficking in rural areas.
Yaqiu Wang is a senior researcher on China at Human Rights Watch, who recently discussed how the attack in Tangshan has become a tipping point for Chinese women who have grown to be frustrated by the lack of public safety set up for them.
“Authorities need to investigate gender-based violence, enforce laws and hold perpetrators of assault and harassment to account. They should also stop censoring online discussions about women’s rights issues, cease harassing or intimidating women’s rights activists and allow an independent press to report on these issues,” she explained.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.