China probes police handling of attack on women in Tangshan restaurant
BEIJING - A deputy police chief in China has been sacked over an incident in the city of Tangshan that sparked outrage online over the treatment of women in the country.
Security footage of the incident at a restaurant showed a group of women being assaulted after one of them pushed away a man who touched her, in the early hours of June 10.
Nine people were arrested and local police claimed two women sustained only minor injuries.
Now the police in the city's Lubei district are themselves under investigarion.
Police chief Ma Aijun and four other officers were being probed for "severe disciplinary violations", China Central Television reported on Tuesday (June 21), citing the anti-graft agency in Hebei province.
The state broadcaster also said Mr Ma's deputy, who was not named, had been relieved of duty for "improper" law enforcement.
Social media users pointed out that local police initially said they responded to the attack within five minutes but Hebei authorities later said it took them 28 minutes.
Police said those arrested included some who were suspected of involvement in online gambling and money laundering.
The fact that the attackers were taken into custody only after security footage of the incident had gone viral also raised questions over whether police were protecting gangsters.
The incident has revived the #MeToo movement against gender inequality that the government has repeatedly tried to suppress, spurring other Chinese women to share stories on social media about times men harassed them or how they feared leaving their homes at night, The Straits Times said in a report credited to Bloomberg.
The government has repeatedly suppressed China's nascent #MeToo movement, viewing it as a vehicle for spreading liberal Western values, and women who have spoken about sexual assault have been silenced by the nation's patriarchal culture, the report said.
After the attack on the four women in Tangshan, an industrial city about 100km east of Beijing, state-run China Daily newspaper dismissed the idea it exposed any problem with women's rights, saying in a commentary that the case "should never be interpreted as any form of sexual antagonism".
But women's rights issues had earlier threatened to overshadow the Beijing Winter Olympics, in February. Concern for tennis player Peng Shuai, who appeared to have made accusations against a senior official, had prompted the United Nations Human Rights Office, the White House and sports stars such as Serena Williams, to issue statements demanding Beijing clarify her whereabouts before the event.
Weeks later, the authorities in the eastern province of Jiangsu were accused of downplaying the case of a mother of eight filmed chained by the neck in a hut.
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