The assault, which took place in the early hours of June 10, saw several women repeatedly kicked and punched by a group of men. It sent shockwaves across China after surveillance footage of the incident leaked online.
A day after the attack, Tangshan police released a statement saying two women had been hospitalized with “non-life threatening injuries” and were in “stable condition”. No other information was provided. The victims, as well as their friends and family, also remained silent.
On Tuesday, 11 days after the assault and 10 days after the initial 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, were “hospitalized in the general ward for treatment, and their condition has improved.” The other two victims, aged 24 and 29, did not require hospitalization, he added.
According to a forensic report quoted by police, the hospitalized women suffered “minor second-degree injuries”, while the other two had “minor injuries”.
In an apparent attempt to refute such rumours, Hebei police said in a statement Tuesday that the suspects fled the scene at 2:47 a.m., seven minutes after the assault began; and at 2:55 a.m. the four victims were taken to hospital by ambulance. Local police arrived at the restaurant at 3:09 a.m., about half an hour after receiving a call from the public at the start of the attack, the statement said.
“So there are no photos or videos. Journalists are not allowed to interview (victims), and only you can disclose information,” said a user of Weibo, the Chinese type platform. Twitter, referring to the lack of access provided to journalists.
“A city with no credibility – dare we trust the injury report? And how reliable is this police statement?” user added.
Following the attack, Chinese authorities sought to stifle discussions of gender-based violence and shift the focus to local gang violence.
State media reports have largely focused on the police’s swift action in arresting the suspects and the announced two-week “storm” campaign by Tangshan authorities to crack down on organized crime. Photos and videos of police – some armed with firearms – standing guard behind customers at outdoor barbecue restaurants, similar to the one where the incident happened, have flooded social media.
In Tuesday’s statement, police said four of the suspects had traveled to Tangshan from the eastern province of Jiangsu three days before the attack to conspire with the other five to “carry out illegal online gambling activities and money laundering”. Several of them had criminal records, for offenses ranging from unlawful detention to intentional harm to others, the statement added.
Police authorities have also launched an internal investigation to determine whether the local police station failed to respond in time and whether it violated laws and regulations while enforcing the law. A deputy chief of the local police station has been suspended, the statement said.