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Unanswered Questions Linger in the Aftermath of Tangshan BBQ Restaurant Beating Incident

The deafening silence surrounding the female victims of the Tangshan incident is trending on Weibo, where people are demanding answers.

Manya Koetse

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The shocking attack on female customers at a Tangshan BBQ restaurant on June 10 is still a major topic of conversation on Chinese social media, where the incident is also referred to as the “Tangshan Barbecue Restaurant Beating Incident” (唐山烧烤店打人案).

For a detailed description of the incident, which was captured by the restaurant’s security cameras (video link), see our previous article here.

In short, three women were sitting at a table together at 2:40 AM when a man came up and tried to touch one of them (a woman dressed in white). After the woman made it clear that she did not want him to touch her, the situation turned violent within seconds.

All of the women ended up getting beaten and kicked by a group of men. The woman dressed in white was dragged outside, where security cameras captured her being severely assaulted by the men. Another woman who tried to help her also ended up being beaten. After the outburst of violence, the men fled the scene, leaving the injured woman lying on the street. A day later, a total of nine men were arrested for their involvement in the attack.

While the two women lie motionless on the pavement, the men stand around.

The ‘Tangshan Barcebecue Beating Incident’ sent shockwaves across the country and triggered discussions on gang crimes, the safety of women, and what people can do to protect themselves and others.

Many restaurants took steps to provide women reassurance that they were safe and some businesses put up warning signs that any form of violent or aggressive behavior would not be tolerated.

Tangshan authorities also took action against crime in the city, introducing operation ‘Thunderstorm’ (雷霆风暴) on June 12, a two-week campaign for which a team of police officers are mobilized and deployed throughout the city to ensure public safety and crackdown on gang crimes.

The Tangshan incident led to dozens of people publicly discussing and exposing gang-related crimes. The fact that at least five of the suspects had criminal records was a cause of anger among those who felt that they should not have been allowed to be out and about at all. One former victim of a man involved in the attack also spoke out. He said he recognized Chen Jizhi (陈继志) from the security footage and that he was locked inside the trunk of a car for ten hours by Chen a few years prior. A hashtag related to the story received over 300 million views on June 17th (#男子称曾被陈继志等殴打险被活埋#).

Other people exposed other gang-related crimes via social media, disclosing their real names and holding their own ID in their hand to make their statements more credible.

One of them was a woman by the name of Zhang, who claimed that she was held hostage in May of this year at the bar where she worked by a local gang and was forced to sign IOUs together with her colleagues. After escaping and reporting to the police, they allegedly did not show up until seven hours later when everyone was gone. This story heightened people’s suspicions regarding police corruption in Tangshan.

Another story that went viral this week is that of a local ‘cake shop boss,’ who also claimed to be a victim of a local gang that has been extorting him since July of 2021, going as far as violently smashing up his shop and closing his business. One news post about this matter received over 340,000 likes on Weibo.

 

Deafening Silence Surrounding Victims

 

In light of the Tangshan restaurant beating, it seems as if everyone has stepped forward to have their say over the past week. The city has come forward with its special action, local businesses have put up signs, the owner of the restaurant where the assault took place published a tearful video in which she said that she too was a victim, some suspects’ family members also spoke out and pleaded with the public not to let their children suffer cyberbullying, and then other locals have spoken out about gang-related violence in the city.

But what about the female victims of the June 10th violence themselves? No statements, no updates, no family coming forward – the silence surrounding the female victims has been attracting a lot of attention on Chinese social media these days.

Many Weibo users suggest that news about the victims is purposely withheld and that people are being silenced about how the women are actually doing.

Text image shared on Weibo. “Please provide details about the injuries of the four girls. Four, not two! Stop covering up your mouth!”

According to previous official media reports, two female victims had been sent to the hospital for treatment and were in stable condition. Two other women reportedly suffered minor injuries and were not hospitalized. No further updates have been given, although the hospital did deny recent rumors that one female victim had passed away (hashtag #医院否认唐山被打女子去世传言#, 190 million views on June 17).

Online calls are growing louder for a follow-up on the victims’ situation and a more detailed report on what actually happened at the Tangshan Barbecue Restaurant. There are many people who are wondering what happened outside the view of the security cameras.

The original footage shows that when the violence starts, a woman (dressed in black) stands up from the table to defend her friend: she hits the aggressive man at their table with a beer bottle. Once her friend (dressed in white) is dragged out of the restaurant, we do not see her come out after.

This is the moment the two women are standing up while their friend is being dragged out of the restaurant. The woman on the right (in black) does not come out later.

On social media, people are speculating about what might have happened to the girl dressed in black and about what occurred in an alley behind the restaurant.

Security footage that was recorded from another angle shows that after the moment when the original video that spread online ends (at the end the guys leave, the girl is left on the street), the incident still continues. One of the women can be seen running into an alley or street behind the restaurant, with the others following. The woman in white, who was dragged by her hair, also stands up and runs away in the same direction.

“What happened in the back alley?” is a question that lingers online, along with multiple other questions relating to what went on after the original video footage ended that night. One Weibo post asking many of these questions received over 275,000 likes within a day.

Image allegedly showing the back alley where the incident possibly continued.

The hashtag “Follow-up to the Tangshan Beating of Women” (#唐山被打女生后续#) received over 210 million views on Weibo on June 17. “The entire nation is waiting for a follow-up,” one Weibo user wrote.

Meanwhile, various videos, images, and sound recordings are flooding Weibo, but nothing has been verified at this point regarding what might have happened in the alley behind the restaurant. “I don’t want to believe it’s real. But I don’t know what to believe anymore,” one commenter said.

On Friday night, Chinese media reported that 320 Weibo accounts had been shut down for spreading rumors about the Tangshan incident and its aftermath. The hashtag related to the news received over 580 million views on Friday (#发布唐山打人事件谣言320个微博账号被关闭#).

Underneath the post, many commenters wrote: “We just want to know if the girls are okay” and “We just want to know the truth.”

By Manya Koetse
with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Residents in Locked Down Lhasa Say Local Epidemic Situation is a “Giant Mess”

Manya Koetse

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They’ve been in lockdown for 42 days already, but according to some Lhasa-based bloggers, there have been no improvements in the local epidemic situation. They say there is a stark difference between what officials are reporting and the daily reality they are dealing with in Tibet.

“The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen wrote on Weibo on September 15, pointing to many new posts surfacing on Chinese social media about the difficulties people are facing in Lhasa city in Tibet.

Over the past week, many Tibet-based bloggers have posted on social media about the local circumstances, and hundreds of Chinese social media posts talk about similar problems in the region. Despite the ongoing lockdown, they say, there are still a growing number of positive cases within Lhasa communities; buses are allegedly going back and forth to bring people to quarantine sites where those testing positive and negative are mixed; they claim that there is an absolute lack of management and control; and many locals suggest that the official reports do not reflect the actual number of Covid cases at all.

According to the official numbers, Tibet saw its peak in Covid cases on August 17 and has since reported fewer new cases, reporting a total of 118 new cases on Thursday.

“I am a bit shocked!” one local social media user wrote: “What I saw was a total of 28 buses lined up outside Lhasa Nagqu No. 2 Senior High School, and then still more [buses] were coming. One bus can fit around 50 people, so there must have been around 1400 positive cases. There was a blind man, there were elderly people in wheelchairs, there were swaddled-up babies, from getting on the bus at 9.30 pm up to now, we’ve been waiting for 5 hours and we’re still waiting now. It’s just pure chaos at the school entrance, there is no order. I won’t sleep tonight.”

On the 14th of September, another netizen wrote:

“In order to welcome central government leaders to Lhasa and to demonstrate the “excellent” epidemic prevention capabilities of the local government & the “outstanding” results of the fight against the epidemic to them, they moved citizens to the rural areas and let them all stay crowded together in unfinished concrete buildings, with all kinds of viruses having free reign.”

On a Lhasa community message board, one Weibo user wrote: “Lhasa has already been in lockdown for over a month, yet our little community has so many infected people that I’m wondering how effective a lockdown actually is? Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have a few positive cases it becomes a hot topic. But what about Tibet? And what about Lhasa?”

Another anonymous poster writes: “Regarding the Lhasa epidemic situation, the numbers were already a bit fake before, but I can understand it was also to take the public sentiment into consideration. I personally don’t care how you report the data, as long as the epidemic prevention and control work is properly managed, then the lockdown can be lifted soon and nobody will say anything about it. But a month has passed already, and in a town with some hundred thousands of people, the epidemic work is increasingly getting worse. Many people around me have never even left the house and inexplicably turned out to test positive. Meanwhile those who tested positive are quarantined together with people who still tested negative, it’s a giant mess.”

 

“Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic.”

 

“It’s the 42nd day of lockdown,” another person wrote on Friday: “People are lining up to go to centralized isolation, Lhasa has been in lockdown longer than Chengdu, but it doesn’t make it to the hot topic lists. People who tested negative again and again suddenly turn out to be positive. Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic. It’s going to be hard to restore tourism here before the end of the year. Before, big crowds would come to visit.

Over the past few days, following a heightened focus on the situation in Xinjiang, there has also been more attention for the epidemic situation in Tibet.

“Please pay more attention to the topic of the Lhasa epidemic,” one person wrote, repeating a similar message sent out by many others: “Lhasa doesn’t need your prayers, we need exposure.”

On Friday, one popular gamer with more than a million followers wrote on Weibo:

“Many have been reaching out to me via private messages, saying that the epidemic situation in Tibet’s Lhasa is very serious. If it’s really like this, I hope matters can be settled as soon as possible. I don’t know if this post can stay up or not, but I want to try my best to speak up and generate more attention to this epidemic trend. I experienced two months of lockdown in Shanghai myself and understand what it feels like. I have faith in our nation, and I believe the country will definitely take action. Everyone in Tibet, jiayou [come on].”

Many of the comments and posts coming from Lhasa are similar to those we saw last week, coming from Yining in Xinjiang. Social media users based in these places complain that many of their posts have been deleted and that it is very difficult for local residents to make their voices heard.

This is different from the previous lockdown situations in, for example, Xi’an, Shanghai, or Chengdu, where people posted videos, photos, and shared their lockdown experiences, either from home, from the Covid testing lines, or from the makeshift hospitals.

On the one hand, the reason why people in places such as Lhasa or Yining have more difficulties in making their stories heard in China’s hectic social media environment relates to the fact that these places have a relatively small population size – while Yining and Lhasa have approximately 542,00 and 465,000 inhabitants respectively, there are 21 million people in Chengdu and some 26 million in Shanghai.

But a bigger barrier to posting about their circumstances is formed by the social media censorship that is extra strict when it comes to Xinjiang and Tibet as these places are considered sensitive political subjects, which is why topics related to these regions see far more aggressive online censorship – even for seemingly innocuous posts.

One Weibo user with over 600,000 followers wrote: “In such a sensitive place as Tibet, I really needn’t worry about whether they’re gonna see my post or not. I posted to vent my anger and scolded the leadership for a bit and within 24 hours the police came to my hotel and asked me to delete my posts. Now that everyone is asking for help like this, they will definitely see it, but they are determined to do this and do so on purpose, it’s clear they don’t care about people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, Chinese official media reporting on the epidemic situation in Tibet stress the collective effort to fight the virus in Lhasa. On September 15, People’s Daily reported how 18 sister provinces and cities across China sent their best teams to Tibet to help with local anti-epidemic work and to bring supplies.

The Tibet-based military blogger ZhufengZhengrong (@珠峰峥嵘) writes: “It’s been over a month and my comrade-in-arms are still fighting on the front line (..). I just hope the epidemic will end soon, and that I will be able to meet my family and hold my children and weep.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Brands & Marketing

Chinese Actor and State Security Ambassador Li Yifeng Detained for Soliciting Prostitutes

Li Yifeng is not exactly living up to his role as spokesperson for the Ministry of State Security.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese actor and singer Li Yifeng (李易峰) went top trending on Chinese social media today. The actor, who previously starred as brand ambassador for the Ministry of State Security and played Mao Zedong in The Pioneer, has been detained for visiting prostitutes.

On January 10 of 2021, China celebrated its very first National Police Day to give full recognition to the police and national security staff for their efforts. For this special day, the Ministry of State Security launched a promo video starring Chinese actor Li Yifeng as the National Police Ambassador (#李易峰国安形象传片#). But today, it turned out that Li might not have been the best man for the job.

Chinese official media reported on September 11 that the 35-year-old actor has been detained for soliciting prostitutes. The hashtag “Li Yifeng Detained for Visiting Prostitutes” (#李易峰多次嫖娼被行政拘留#) received nearly two billion views on Weibo on Sunday; the hashtag “Beijing Police Informs that Li Yifeng Solicited Prostitutes” (#北京警方通报李易峰多次嫖娼#) received a staggering three billion views.

Shortly after the news was announced, various brands for which Li served as a brand ambassador announced that they were no longer working with the actor. Lukfook Jewellery, Mengniu Dairy, Honma Golf, Panerai, Prada, Sensodyne, King To Nin Jiom, and other brands declared that they had terminated their contract with Li (#多个品牌终止与李易峰合作#).

Li rose to fame in 2007 when he participated in the Chinese My Hero talent show. He later debuted as a singer and became a successful actor, starring in various Chinese TV dramas and films. Li became especially popular after starring in Swords of Legends and won an award for his role in the 2015 Chinese crime film Mr. Six (老炮儿). He would go on to win many more awards. One of his biggest roles was starring as Mao Zedong in the 2021 blockbuster The Pioneer (革命者).

According to Global Times, Li was previously announced as one of the celebrities attending the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on CCTV on Saturday night, but his name was later deleted from the program.

“I had never expected my idol to collapse like this,” some disappointed fans wrote on Weibo.

In a ‘super topic’ community dedicated to the star, some fans would not give up on their idol yet: “Where is the proof? Besides the Beijing police statement, where is the actual proof?”

On Li Yifeng’s Weibo page, where the actor has over 60 million fans, nothing has been posted since September 5.

The Huading Awards, a famous entertainment award in China, announced that they cancelled Li Yifeng’s title of “Best Actor in China” (#华鼎奖取消李易峰中国最佳男主角等称号#).

“He lost all he had overnight,” some commenters wrote. “Celebrities generally get cancelled for two things: one is evading taxes, the other is sleeping around,” one popular comment said: “So in a nutshell, pay your taxes and don’t sleep around.*”

“Why do you even need to see a prostitute when you’re so good-looking?” others wondered.

One Weibo user (@大漠叔叔) wrote: “Have a good head on your shoulders and just remember one thing. It does not matter how good your reputation is, or how many titles you have, how much the audience loves you, how much the fans embrace you, how many awards you get, it won’t protect you. Stay clear-headed, merit does not outweigh faults! You can’t cross the moral bottomline nor cross the boundaries of the law. You can be canceled just like that.”

By Manya Koetse 

* This comment is loosely translated here, but the Chinese is quite funny because the words ‘taxes’ and ‘sleeping’ sound similar. “明星塌房的两个主要原因:一个睡,一个税。 简而言之:该税的税,不该睡的别睡.”

 

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