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Video of Assault on Woman in Beijing Hotel Causes Urban Safety Concerns Amongst Netizens

Video footage of one woman being attacked near a hotel known for prostitution in the popular Beijing 798 neighbourhood has gone viral on Weibo and WeChat. The case causes concern amongst netizens, who fear for women’s safety in the city.

Manya Koetse

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Video footage of a woman being attacked near a hotel known for prostitution in the popular Beijing 798 neighbourhood has gone viral on Weibo and WeChat. The case causes concern amongst netizens, who fear for women’s safety in the city.

One Sina Weibo one user named Wanwan_2016 from Hangzhou posted a surveillance video on April 4 that showed her being attacked by a man in a hotel hallway in Beijing’s popular 798 Art District. The assault occurred on Sunday evening, April 3rd, just before 11 pm.

The video caused a lot of commotion amongst China’s netizens for multiple reasons. One of the major things that angered people was that the video revealed how bystanders and hotel staff did not help the woman when she was attacked by the man. It also raised concerns about the safety of Chinese hotels like the one where the assault occurred – which are meet-up places for prostitution. Many netizens furthermore spoke of the fact that Chinese media initially hardly covered the topic. Lastly, the case also increased public awareness on women having to be able to defend themselves in such situations.

By now, the topic has become an online sensation that has been shared nearly a million times, attracting thousands of comments within a time frame of 48 hours.

“Why is it tolerated in the minds of Chinese people that wives or children are beaten?”

The video clip that went viral is actually a video of a video – recorded by the victim as she is shown the security footage of her own assault. During the clip, you can hear the woman commenting and crying as she sees the footage of her own attack. The footage shows how the woman is assaulted by a man as she is about to leave the hotel. The man first grabs her by the throat and then drags her to the street, just outside the view of the surveillance cameras. Although the woman reportedly cries out, people passing by do not help her. One hotel staff person stands by as the man makes a phone call to take the girl away, but does not intervene. If it had not been for another female hotel customer who stops the man by the end of the video, it is likely that the woman would have been abducted.

According to China.org, one of the reasons people did not help out might be because they thought that this was a quarreling couple. One popular comment on Weibo said: “Why is it tolerated in the minds of Chinese people that wives or children are beaten? How many times has it happened that suspects pretend to be spouses or head of the household, so that bystanders don’t care about their cruel acts?”

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The comment raises a sensitive issue, as it is not the first time that perpetrators act as if the woman they are assaulting is actually their wife or girlfriend. In 2013, several stories of men dragging away women in the Beijing subway while pretending to be their husband or boyfriend also made their rounds on the internet.

“The problem is society’s indifferent attitude.”

Within hours after Wanwan herself posted the clip of her assault on her Weibo page, it was shared over 65,000 times, with netizens reacting in anger over the indifference of the hotel staff and bystanders. China.org reports that the hotel management issued an online statement saying that a fight between a man and a woman had taken place that night: “The hotel staff tried to separate them after hearing the noise. The man then made a phone call and tried to take the woman away. The woman sat down on the ground and called the police. When the man tried to drag the woman towards the emergency exit, he was stopped by a female customer and a hotel guard,” the statement said.

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Through her Weibo account, Wanwan calls for people to share the video so that more people know about it, and women can learn from it to be more vigilant. She also hopes for justice in this case. The topic went viral under the hashtag of ‘Woman attacked at Yitel Hotel’ (#和颐酒店女生遇袭#). By Wednesday, the video was shared more than 920,000 times and had attracted over 260,000 comments.

One netizen pointed out: “The crucial problem here is a great shortcoming of our society, where people have become accustomed to showing an indifferent attitude. The problem is not about where this happened (..), it is about the state of society.”

“I am so disappointed.”

Weibo netizens worry for women’s safety in Beijing and condemn the hotel chain that Yitel belongs to, Home Inns, complaining that these kinds of hotels are often used for prostitution and other illegal activities, are unsafe and have bad service: “I hope this case will raise hotel staff’s awareness on the safety of its customers,” one netizen says.

Homeinn has again commented one the case through its Weibo account earlier today (April 6), saying that “the police is currently investigating this case and we are assisting them in this, we are in close contact with them, and will report more on this matter soon.”

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Through Sina Weibo, state media outlet People’s Daily warns all women: “Ladies, please pass this on. Safety guidelines for women. A woman from Hangzhou was attacked at a Beijing hotel and police is investigating the case. Please keep this in mind: 1. Please do not go to appointed places with strangers. 2. Do not go into dark streets at night by yourself. 3. Do not just open the door for anyone. 4. Do not cling to your property in dangerous situations.”

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The guidelines also warn women not to take black cabs. Many netizens are critical about the warning as they feel that it puts the responsibility of an attack on the shoulders of women: “Isn’t it the job of the police to make sure we can safely go out?” one netizen wonders.

Wanwan herself only had one final reaction today to the media, police and hotel’s reactions: “I am so disappointed.”

– By Manya Koetse & Diandian Guo

Featured image: original footage screenshots compilated by What’s on Weibo

©2016 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 Local News

Knife-Wielding Woman Goes on Rampage at Guixi Primary School

Shortly after the incident, videos and photos began circulating on WeChat, showing young children covered in blood on the ground.

Manya Koetse

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A woman in Guixi, a county-level city in Jiangxi’s Yingtan, has been taken into custody after stabbing people at a primary school on Monday, May 20, around noon. The incident resulted in at least two fatalities and left ten others injured.

Shortly after the incident, videos and photos began circulating on WeChat, showing young children covered in blood on the ground, victims of the woman’s stabbing rampage at the Mingde Primary School in Guixi’s Wenfang.

The incident immediately attracted significant attention on Weibo, where netizens not only commented on the tragedy of innocent children being involved in such a horrific crime but also on the unusual fact that the suspect is female; as typically, perpetrators of such crimes are male.

Others also questioned why the school security guards were not present to prevent such an incident and how the woman managed to gain access to the school grounds in the first place.

The 45-year-old female suspect is a native of Guixi. It’s reported that she used a paring knife to carry out the stabbing attack on the school premises.

Shortly after the incident, local authorities called on blood donation centers in Guixi to extend their opening hours, and local residents started queuing up to donate blood to help out the victims who are still being treated for their injuries.

Another question that lingers is why the woman would commit such an atrocious crime. People suggest it is bàofù shèhuì (报复社会), a Chinese term that translates to “retaliate against society” or “taking revenge on society.”

Baofu shehui is often cited as a type of criminal motivation for knife-wielding incidents in China, particularly those occurring at schools, where individuals with personal grievances and/or mental health issues commit these extreme crimes. Such incidents have happened multiple times in the past, notably between 2010 and 2012, during a series of elementary school and kindergarten attacks.

Different from these kinds of attacks in Europe or the US, it often involves older perpetrators who are disillusioned, frustrated, and alienated from their communities amid rapidly changing social and economic conditions in China.

But for many netizens, such a possible motivation does not make sense. Some commenters wrote: “Taking revenge on society should never be done by venting one’s anger against children.”

Others wish the worst upon the perpetrator. One popular comment says, “I hope she gets the death penalty, and that the victims’ families get to execute her.”

By Manya Koetse

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China Insight

Red Cross Society of China in Bad Light Due to Online Rumors after Gansu Earthquake

Even though the rumors surrounding the Red Cross might be false, the public concerns surrounding charity efforts are real.

Manya Koetse

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A handwarmer for 500 yuan ($70), a tent for 2200 yuan ($308), a blanket for 100 yuan ($14)? An online list detailing items supposedly procured by the Gansu Red Cross for earthquake relief efforts has ignited controversy on Chinese social media in recent days. Although the Red Cross has denied all rumors, the incident underscores public skepticism towards the organization.

After the devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Jishishan (积石山), a county in China’s Gansu Province’s Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, on December 18, Chinese social media platforms were flooded with news related to the disaster. The overnight earthquake killed at least 148 people and left hundreds injured.

News of the earthquake resonated deeply throughout the country, and the ongoing search and rescue operations and relief efforts, hindered by landslides, ruined infrastructure, and freezing temperatures, have attracted major attention online.

While much of the discourse revolves around the goodness of the people contributing to charities and doing all they can to help victims in the affected areas, there is also public distrust surrounding the motives of some charities or helping organizations that might use the disaster as an opportunity to make a profit.

One hotly debated topic revolves around the Red Cross Society of China, after a list surfaced online of items allegedly purchased by the Gansu Red Cross for relief efforts in the aftermath of the Gansu Earthquake.

Image published on Weibo via Red Cross Society of China (@中国红十字会总会).

The procurement list raised controversy due to the high prices of the common items listed, and because of a supposed “management fee” (管理费) of 1.6 million yuan ($224k).

In response, the Red Cross refuted these claims, asserting that they had not issued any such list (#甘肃红十字称没发布任何物资清单#). On December 24, the Gansu Red Cross took to Weibo (@甘肃省红十字会) to clarify that the circulating information was “grossly inaccurate.” They assured the public that all donations would directly aid earthquake relief efforts, without incurring management fees.

The Red Cross statement on Weibo.

Even though the procurement list might be false, the public concerns surrounding charity efforts are real.

“Why does the Red Cross end up in the top trending lists every time?” one commenter wondered: “Their information should be more transparent and timely.”

Others also suggested that merely denying the rumors was not enough, and that they hoped that the Red Cross would provide more details and information to show netizens, of whom many donated money, how their charity money is being spent to help relief efforts in the affected areas in Gansu and Qinghai.

The fact that the Red Cross Weibo post did not allow any commenting did not help: “Why are you afraid to let us openly discuss this?”

 
Red Cross Society of China: Tainted by Suspicion
 

The Red Cross of China, the nation’s largest charitable organization, continues to grapple with a tarnished reputation that partly stems from the 2011 “Guo Meimei Incident.”

Guo Meimei (郭美美), whose real name is Guo Meiling, became an infamous internet celebrity in the summer of 2011 after flaunting her excessive wealth online whilst claiming to work as a “commercial general manager” for the Red Cross Society of China.

The issue severely eroded the society’s credibility, which has been designated by the government as the central public donation organization during times of disasters (Cheng 2016). From luxury handbags to sports cars, the 19-year-old Guo showed off her money on Weibo, and quickly went viral on various message boards as people were angered over corruption and potential misuse of charity money.

Guo Meimei

Despite efforts by the Red Cross Society to debunk these rumors and distance itself from Guo, speculations persisted. Many speculated about Guo’s potential ties to the organization, even if she did not officially work there. As highlighted by Cheng (2016), the public’s negative sentiment toward the Red Cross triggered “a chain of credibility crises” and even spread to other charitable groups in China.

During the 2020 Wuhan Covid outbreak, the Red Cross faced scrutiny for allegedly stockpiling public donations of medical supplies in warehouses rather than promptly distributing them to frontline medical personnel facing shortages.

The current allegations against the Red Cross of China in the aftermath of the Gansu Earthquake also echo other past controversies, such as the one they dealt with after the 2008 Sichuan quake. Red Cross officials were then also accused of misusing donations by purchasing needlessly expensive tents and vehicles.

 
Donations for the ‘Underdog’: The Han Hong Foundation
 

The growing public distrust towards the Red Cross has arguably paved the way for other Chinese charities to gain prominence. A prime example is the Han Hong Love Charity Foundation (韩红爱心慈善基金会), established in 2012 by renowned Chinese folk singer Han Hong (韩红, 1971).

Although Han Hong has been engaged in charity for many years, during which she invested a lot of her own money, the charity she established became more known after the Han Hong Love Charity Foundation was committed to aid efforts during the Wuhan Covid outbreak in 2020 and the Henan floods in 2021.

Han Hong (center), picture via Xiaohongshu fan of Han Hong.

After the earthquake in Gansu on December 18th, Han Hong’s organization immediately organized rescue teams and provided people in the affected areas with clothes and (medical) supplies. Hang Hong was able to rake in millions thanks to her reputation of being compassionate and altruistic, as well as through her strong network in China’s entertainment industry, leading numerous Chinese celebrities to support her relief efforts.

But Han Hong’s organization is also affected by the public distrust surrounding charity in China. On December 23, it was rumored that her Charity Foundation was officially asked to leave the disaster area as well as to hand over a portion of their donations.

The foundation refuted these claims by issuing a statement on December 25 (#韩红基金会辟谣#).

Statement by Han Hong Love Charity Foundation refuting rumors that their charity work was hindered by officials.

In the public view, there seems to be a big difference between perceptions of large entities like the Red Cross and other ‘official’ charitable organizations versus smaller, more independent initiatives like the Han Hong foundation, which operates as a private charitable entity.

Reflecting on the rumors surrounding both the Red Cross and Han Hong’s foundation, one Weibo commenter noted: “These rumors come into existence because so many of these so-called charitable foundations actually treat charity as their business. And so, they become ‘competitors.’”

Meanwhile, Han Hong’s organization stresses that it operates under the guidance and oversight of the party and government, and only provide emergency support through their support.

In online discussions on the power of the Red Cross versus Han Hong’s organization, some commenters suggest that it is time for the government and authorities to reflect on why a private organization would be more trusted than the Red Cross, a government organized NGO.

One Weibo commenter wrote: “What Han Hong does is true charity instead of business.” Another person replied: “The biggest disaster here is actually the erosion of public trust.”

By Manya Koetse

References

Cheng, Yang. 2016. “Social Media Keep Buzzing! A Test of Contingency Theory in China’s Red Cross Credibility Crisis.” International Journal of Communication, June 2016: pp. 3241+.

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