After days of mounting public pressure, Chinese police have finally released an update on the investigation into a brutal restaurant attack in Tangshan – but the statement did little to quell public outrage or allay victims’ concerns.
In the attack, which took place in the early hours of June 10, several women were repeatedly kicked and punched by a group of men. It sent shockwaves through China after surveillance footage of the incident was leaked online.
A day after the attack, Tangshan police issued a statement saying two women were hospitalized with “non-life-threatening injuries” and were in “stable condition.” No further information was given. The victims and their friends and family have also remained silent.
On Tuesday, 11 days after the attack and 10 days after the first statement, the Public Security Department of Hebei Province, where Tangshan is located, released a second, longer statement, saying two of the women, aged 31 and 29 years old were ” admitted to hospital as an inpatient for treatment and their condition has improved.” The other two victims, aged 24 and 29, did not require hospitalization, she added.
According to a forensic report cited by police, the hospitalized women suffered “minor second-degree injuries,” with the other two suffering “minor injuries.”
The 10-day information black hole had prompted repeated claims that leaked surveillance video only captured part of the attack and that off-camera violence continued in a nearby alley — claims CNN cannot independently verify.
In an apparent attempt to refute such rumors, the Hebei police said in the statement Tuesday the suspects fled the scene at 2:47 a.m. – seven minutes after the attack began; and at 2:55 a.m. the four victims were taken to the hospital by ambulance. Local police officers said they arrived at the restaurant at 3:09 am, about half an hour after receiving a call from the public at the start of the attack.
But the statement was met with disbelief online, with many criticizing the authorities’ handling of the case. A related hashtag on Weibo was viewed 450 million times in a matter of hours.
“So there are no pictures or videos. Journalists are not allowed to interview (the victims) and only you yourself can publish information,” said a user on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, citing the lack of access for journalists.
“A city without credibility – do we dare to report the injury? And how reliable is this police statement?” the user added.
After the attack, Chinese authorities sought to stifle discussion of gender-based violence and shift the focus to local gang violence.
State media reports mainly focused on the police’s swift action in arresting the suspects and the two-week “thunderstorm” campaign announced by Tangshan authorities to crack down on organized crime. Photos and videos of police officers – some armed with guns – standing guard behind customers at outdoor grill restaurants similar to where the incident took place have flooded social media.
In Tuesday’s statement, police said four of the suspects traveled to Tangshan from eastern Jiangsu province three days before the attack to conspire with the other five to “carry out illegal online gambling and money laundering activities.” Several of them have previous convictions for offenses ranging from illegal detention to intentionally harming others, the statement added.
Police authorities have also launched an internal investigation to determine whether the local police station failed to respond in a timely manner and whether they violated laws and regulations in enforcing the law. A deputy chief of the local police station has been suspended, the statement said.