A screengrab from video footage shows two women lying on the ground after being assaulted at a restaurant in Tangshan in June.
Photograph: Reuters


Chinese prosecutors have launched criminal proceedings against 28 people suspected of assaulting a group of women in a viral incident that sparked outrage over gender-based violence in the country.

Footage of a group of men assaulting four women at a barbecue restaurant in Tangshan, east of the capital, Beijing, was shared widely online, renewing debate about violence against women in China.

The men carried out the assault after the women rejected their advances, the footage showed.

Prosecutors in Hebei province said they would begin legal proceedings against the suspects – including seven directly involved in the assault – after they obtained “reliable and sufficient” evidence.

The statement, shared on the Weibo social media site, did not specify a criminal charge.

Police identified the prime suspect in the attack as “Chen”, saying he had “recklessly used violence to commit evil”, according to the state broadcaster CCTV.

Following the attack Tangshan authorities sacked the city’s deputy police chief and five other police officers, and also launched a crackdown against organised crime.

Discussion of feminism has grown in China despite pressure from its patriarchal society, widespread censorship and patchy legal support for victims.

But viral online essays condemning the attack as symbolic of the country’s larger problem of gender-based violence were censored.

Two women were taken to hospital after the incident and two others sustained minor injuries, authorities said.

Women’s rights campaigners say domestic abuse remains pervasive and under-reported in China, while prominent feminists also face regular police harassment and detention.

Local journalists who travelled to Tangshan to seek information about the victims were harassed, intimidated and even detained, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

In early August, a Tangshan man allegedly killed his girlfriend by repeatedly running her over with his car in broad daylight.

Surveillance footage of the incident sparked widespread outrage online before being censored.