The rise in violent crime in Beijing is a hot topic in expat circles. To help cut through the rumors and hearsay, we'll be perpetually updating a list of attacks and arguments that have been verified as true. This is not intended to be a scare tactic. Rather, it's meant to keep you informed as to what's going on so that you know to be aware and alert when you're out at night.
If you have any firsthand accounts that you think we should be aware of, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and give us the details.
Nov 21: We received a very troubling email about a sexual assualt carried out against a foreign woman in Sanlitun:
BEIJINGERS: (Posting this on behalf of victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, in warning) - Late Fri Nov 9th, a western woman was brutally sexually assaulted by a group of West African men in the Sanlitun area. These men are still at large. Beijing is no longer the safe city it once was.
We print this information only after verifying that it actually occurred as described. The person who verified the information is a long-time Beijing expat who is close friends with the victim. Our thoughts go out to the victim of this terrible crime.
November 7: We received this email from a reader this week about a violent incident at a Sanlitun club which we can now reveal as Destination.
"I was not present to witness this happening but last night a man was
attacked inside a club in SanLiTun. When he noticed his bag had been
moved and saw a man riffling through the bag he checked for his phone
which was missing. He simply asked for the phone back and was attacked
by the men standing there. He was punched in the face and left with a
huge black eye. He was also punched in the jaw which has left him with
bruises and a swollen face. He ended up in the hospital possibly
needing stitches but not getting any. He also filed a report with the
police station but they did nothing and said they could do nothing.
While at the club there were security guards standing there watching
but did not assist him in any way."
This is the first time we have heard any reports of violence at Destination.
November 2: After publishing the 10/18 incident (below), today we received an email from a reader stating:
re: 10/18 incident with the motorcycle, same thing happen to a
friend of mine right after the national holiday. Motorcycle pulled up beside her as she she was riding her bicycle and stole her iphone. This happened near dongsishitiao.
Seems like they are targeting women on bikes near this area.
Bottom line, ladies should be extra careful about biking alone in this area at night.
October 18, 2012: An American girl was assaulted while riding her bike between Gongti and Gulou. She sent us the following account, published in full with her permission:
"Thursday night, October 18th (technically Friday) around 12:30am I left a party at Elements by myself. After bicycling and turning from Gongrentiyuchang Xi Lu onto Gongrentiyuchang Bei Lu, I noticed a guy on a motorbike riding close to me—unusually close during a time of night when bicycle lanes are empty. No one else was in that lane but me on my push bike and this guy on his motorbike traveling side-by-side.
Before we reached Dongsishitiao bridge, this motor biker reached over me and brushed my waist and lap with his palm. Surprised I looked right and made eye-contact. This guy was anonymous in his black leather jacket, wearing a red backpack and white motorcycle helmet emblazoned with red and yellow flames. His helmet visor was up and I went through my mental rolodex trying to figure out who this dark-eyed person was. I could not determine if he was friend/stranger, male/female, local/foreign, young/old.
I bicycled faster and the motor biker followed me over Dongsishitiao Bridge and reached over again brushing my waist, trying to grab hold of me. I shouted and pushed him off me as we traveled west. Seeing a red traffic light ahead at Dongsishitiao and Dongzhimen Nan Xiao Jie intersection, I turned right. The motor biker followed, pulled up alongside of me and tried to grab me again. I warded him off before he could solidify his grip and lost him as we approached the edges of Gui Jie.
Was he trying to rob me? What were his intentions? I don’t know. I don’t look obviously foreign (I am of Chinese ethnicity). My memory of that night is clear (I did not leave Elements drunk, thank goodness). This incident is not unusual – my other female friends have shared similar experiences. Beijing is like other big cities and is not exempt from crime.
What particularly angers me is the helplessness that I and these women feel afterwards. The local authorities are unsympathetic. The last time I tried reporting a crime to the Sanlitun PSB, the policeman at the front desk told me to leave and refused to issue a robbery report because I could not 100% prove that my wallet was stolen within their district (I was pickpocketed somewhere between Tuanjiehu and Sanlitun).
When you’re out alone at night, the only person you can really depend on for safety is yourself. Everyone, please be careful at night. I was lucky that this motor biker either lost interest or was scared off by the bright lights of Gui Jie. Next time, I may not be so lucky."
Oct 17, 2012: At 9:30pm a City Weekend staffer was punched in the head twice by bouncers / security / thugs affiliated with the Yuese Bar (月色酒吧) which is on the strip of Sanlitun bars across from the Village. The dispute started when the staffer tried to park his bike by a tree in front of the bar. A Chinese man who refused to identify himself threatened his bike, then threatened the staffer then began shouting verbal abuse at the staffer, then struck the staffer in the head with fist. The staffer removed the bike to a different location and came back and took a photo of the assailant at which point another Chinese man came out of nowhere and struck the staffer in the head with fist and shouted derogatory statements about foreigners. Bottom line for foreigners, please do avoid that strip of bars, they are nothing but trouble. And in particular Yuese, which is clearly antagonistic to foreigners.
July 14, 2012: On Saturday evening, a foreign woman was attacked by a man in a Sanlitun bar. According to Weibo user 乔什么乔, a female friend was harassed and knocked down, resulting in bruising and a swollen jaw. The alleged attacker (pictured below) was taken to the police station but refused to admit guilt or provide identifying information. After a few hours in custody he apologized, but still did not take responsibility for her injuries.
July 11, 2012: At 3:20pm, an American tourist was stabbed and killed in a hutong near Dashilan. Police have not confirmed the motive for the attack, but the suspect they apprehended at the scene has a previous arrest record for several attempted robberies.
June 29, 2012: At approximately midnight, near the east gate of Kangbao Gardens (just to the south of Sanlitun Soho), a foreign woman was on her bike waiting at a red light when she was sexually harassed and groped by a Chinese man. She managed to push him away and bike home, but when she stopped at her compound gate to open it he came up behind her and continued to grope her while trying to push her inside the compound. Building security guards were nearby, but did not offer any assistance. She shouted and fought him off, pushing him far enough away that she could get inside the gate and close it behind her. The man ran away without building security pursuing him. She explains (in the comments below): "My incident might not be foreign-related or xenophobic in nature; nonetheless, for Chinese and foreigners alike it could be worth knowing that these things happen in order for all of us to be more cautious. As many of you I have always felt that Beijing is extremely safe, and all though it might not be as bad as other places in the world perhaps we have all gotten a little bit too comfy and naïve."
June 13, 2012: Around 2am outside of Zhuang bar in Shuangjing, a French man tried to explain to two Chinese men that a taxi had been waiting for him when they tried to get inside. These men phoned another friend of theirs who was nearby, and they proceeded to violently push both the French man and two Australian men who came from the bar to try to help translate. One of the Australian men was punched in the face unprovoked and then kicked repeatedly in the torso after falling to the ground. The staff at Zhuang locked their doors and refused to provide assistance to the injured man. The other two foreign men were repeatedly pushed and threatened every time they tried to approach the bar area to help the man who had been punched. The injured man was later hit with a stool by one of the same Chinese men when he tried to find help, and the French man was punched hard enough in the side that he was coughing up blood the next day. The Chinese men eventually got into a car near Grinders and drove away. The injured Australian was helped by the staff of the convenience store along that strip, who provided him with an ice pack and tissues. He suffered a badly cut lip. Afterwards, they filed a police statement and contacted their embassies. According to one of the men involved (who is a dual citizen), the Australian embassy provided no assistance beyond telling him to file a police report, while the British embassy took a detailed report of everything that happened. The reason he provided all these details is because he hopes that people will take care to try to avoid arguments (even if they feel they are 100% in the right). In his opinion, communication barriers and the current tensions make situations more difficult to diffuse, so it's best to avoid them if at all possible. He also made a point of saying that he hopes reports of these incidents will serve to make people more aware of their surroundings but not resentful towards Chinese people. Despite his experience, he stressed that (as with anywhere else in the world) most locals are genuinely good people and we shouldn't let these accounts cloud our judgement.
June 12, 2012: The U.S. Embassy sent out a warning email after one of their employees was assaulted at Element nightclub, on the west side of the Workers' Stadium. Elements responded with a press release claiming their staff acted appropriately to diffuse the situation. The full text of the email and subsequent press release can be found here, along with information about the embassy's emergency services for citizens.
May 23, 2012: City Weekend staffer Sarah Ting-Ting Hou was verbally and then physically assaulted by two Chinese men in a car while walking home along the street by Nearby the Tree in Sanlitun back street. Her attackers then parked the car on Xindong Lu and waited for her to walk past before punching and kicking both her and the other expat couple who was walking her home.
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