HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese authorities arrested nine people on suspicion of violently assaulting several women at a restaurant after surveillance footage of the attack sparked widespread outrage.
Footage from a barbecue restaurant in Tangshan in northern Hebei province, time stamped 2:40 a.m. Friday, showed one of the men approaching a table where a party of four women were seated and placing his hand on a woman’s back.
She rebuffed him several times before he flew into a rage and slapped her, prompting her to fight back. A brawl ensued, with a group of men entering the restaurant and brutally attacking the woman and her dining partners, including shoving them to the ground, kicking them and even throwing a chair at them.
Footage taken from outside the restaurant also showed the attackers dragging the woman who had rebuffed the man’s advances out of the establishment and beating her viciously while most passersby and patrons looked on.
Photographs of her lying on a stretcher, with a swollen and bloodied face, as well as footage of the attack, went viral online.
The assault and the public outcry renewed a conversation about misogyny and mistreatment of women in China. Earlier this year, a viral video of a woman being chained to a wall in a hut drew public backlash after authorities initially denied that she was a victim of human trafficking. She was later found to have been sold as a bride.
All nine suspects were arrested Saturday, according to a statement by authorities issued on microblogging platform Weibo.
Two women had sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were receiving treatment in a hospital. Their condition was reported to be stable. Two others were slightly injured.
The footage of what happened both inside and outside the restaurant was 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 that dining out is so unsafe now, do we have to bring men with us everywhere we go?” the post read. “(These men) are no different from thugs.”
When reached, the user declined to reveal the source of the videos, stating that it was “inconvenient” to do so. By Sunday, the video of footage filmed inside the restaurant had garnered over 68 million views, while the footage showing the graphic assault outside the restaurant had been taken down.
Social media users have condemned the attack and criticized Tangshan police for being slow in arresting the suspects.
“I’m a woman, and I have a daughter,” said one Weibo user with the handle BaobaomaoDaren. “I wonder — as I’m creating value for society and spreading positive energy, will this society protect me and my child?”
State broadcaster CCTV said in an online commentary that the suspects must be arrested as quickly as possible and “punished severely in accordance with the law” in order to account to the victims and the public.
Associated Press news researchers Caroline Chen and Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.