Women were brutally attacked by nine men in the northern city of Tangshan after one of them objected to sexual harassment.
The attack, captured on a surveillance camera, shocked all of China, angering women who have long faced harassment and gender-based violence.
But the ensuing silence on the part of the victims and their families has alarmed many who fear the worst for women, highlighting the public’s lack of trust in a government system that routinely hides unwanted news – a propensity that has only been exacerbated by the raft. strict restrictions as part of the country’s zero Covid policy.
Many expressed fear for the women after watching the heartbreaking surveillance footage. One woman was dragged out by the men by her hair, beaten with bottles and chairs, and kicked several times in the head. The woman who tried to help her was pushed away and landed heavily on the back of her head on the stairs.
A few hours after the photo was attacked, one of the victims lies on a hospital gurney. covered in blood, with a bandaged head. The next day, Tangshan police said the two women had been hospitalized with “non-life-threatening injuries” and were in “stable condition,” but there has been no word on their situation since.
Last week there were rumors that some of the victims were in a much worse condition than the authorities claimed. constantly circulate on the Internet, despite repeated denials by police, hospital staff, and the local branch of the All China Women’s Federation, a state-backed women’s group.
Some have claimed that CCTV footage only captured part of the attack, with the violence continuing off-screen in a nearby alley – claims that CNN is unable to independently verify. In another video circulated online, residents can be seen placing bouquets of flowers in an alley.
Speculation intensified on Thursday as more videos surfaced online, the authenticity of which could not be confirmed.
In a Friday statement, Weibo said it had closed 320 accounts for “spreading rumors” about the Tangshan attack. A widely circulated article on messaging app WeChat citing the rumors was also censored.
The persistent speculation was fueled by the black hole of information surrounding the victims. Neither of them nor their friends and relatives have spoken out since the attack, and no official details regarding their injuries have been made public. State media reports mainly focused on the swift action by the police to arrest suspects and the Tangshan authorities’ announced two-week “thunderstorm” campaign to crack down on organized crime.
Several media outlets known for their scathing reporting, such as China News Weekly, quoted hospital officials denying any of the women’s deaths, but this did not convince the public.
“You, the authorities, refute rumors every day. Where is your evidence? asked a Weibo user.
“Why are rumors flying everywhere? Because we can’t find a single true phrase anywhere,” said another.
The local police department told CNN that the case was still under investigation and declined to share any further information. The hospital that treated the women did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. The local branch of the All China Women’s Federation hung up.
Even state media reporters were prevented from covering the aftermath due to local authorities tightening travel restrictions in Tangshan in the aftermath of the Covid attack.
A journalist from Guizhou State Broadcasting Station revealed in a Weibo video that when he arrived at Tangshan Railway Station on June 11, a day after the attack, he was not allowed to leave the station because he “did not report to the local residential area in advance.” This is despite the fact that he tested negative for the coronavirus on the same day, had a “green health code” on his Covid app, and was traveling from a city that had recently reported no cases of the virus.
“Tangshan and Henan is really the scariest comparison: for eight days you don’t know anything about Tangshan girls, but (Henan provincial authorities) in a second will know all your data – where you are, which train ticket you booked, and what you want do,” wrote Li Chengpeng, a well-known writer and public critic, on social media on Saturday.
“What you know is what (the authorities) let you know, what you don’t know will never be known.”
Like many posts criticizing the government’s lack of transparency regarding the incident, Lee’s article has since been censored.
Sean Dan of CNN contributed to the story.