HONG KONG — Chinese authorities have arrested nine people suspected of violently assaulting several women at a restaurant after surveillance footage of the attack sparked widespread outrage.
Images of a barbecue restaurant in Tangshan, in the northern province of Hebei, timestamped as 2:40 a.m. Friday showed one of the men approaching a table where a group of four women were sitting and placing his hand on a woman’s back.
She pushed him away several times before he got angry and slapped her, prompting her to retaliate. A scuffle ensued, with a group of men entering the restaurant and brutally attacking the woman and her dining partners, including throwing them to the ground, kicking them and even throwing a chair at them.
Footage taken from outside the restaurant also showed the assailants dragging the woman who had repelled the man’s advances out of the establishment and beating her violently as most passers-by and customers watched.
Photographs of her lying on a stretcher with her face swollen and bloody, along with footage of the attack, have gone viral online.
The assault and public outcry have reignited the conversation about misogyny and the mistreatment of women in China. Earlier this year, a viral video of a woman chained to a wall in a hut sparked a public backlash after authorities initially denied she was a victim of human trafficking. It was later discovered that she had been sold as a wife.
The nine suspects were arrested on Saturday, according to a statement from authorities posted on the Weibo microblogging platform.
Two women had sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were being treated in a hospital. Their condition is said to be stable. Two others were slightly injured.
The footage of what happened inside and outside the restaurant lasted just under 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 eating out is so dangerous now, do we have to take men with us everywhere we go?” the read message. “(These men) are no different from thugs.”
When contacted, the user refused to reveal the source of the videos, saying it was “embarrassing” to do so. As of Sunday, video of the footage filmed inside the restaurant had garnered more than 68 million views, while footage showing the graphic assault outside the restaurant had been deleted.
Social media users condemned the attack and criticized Tangshan police for being slow to arrest suspects.
“I am a woman and I have a daughter,” said a Weibo user with the handle BaobaomaoDaren. “I wonder – as I create value for society and spread positive energy, will this society protect me and my child?”
State broadcaster CCTV said in an online comment that the suspects must be arrested as soon as possible and “severely punished according to law” in order to bring victims and the public to account.