Because Beijing is a relatively safe place to live when compared to many foreign cities, expats tend to settle into a comfort zone. However, a recent escalation of violence in Sanlitun has brought expat safety concerns to light.
This past Wednesday night around 3am, City Weekend staffer Sarah Ting-Ting Hou was walking home alone from Sanlitun towards Xindong Lu on the small street that separates the Village South from the back bar street. Just before the police station, two Chinese men in their early 20s drove up next to her in a white Volkswagon. They proceeded to verbally harass her and one grabbed her through the open car window.
They got out of the car and tried to pursue her on foot, so Sarah ran to Nearby the Tree, where there were people sitting outside who told the two men to stop harassing her. The men went back to their car and sped down the street, parking the car at the intersection of Xindong Lu and exiting the car to wait for her.
Another expat couple agreed to walk with her to escort her home, and they turned left at the intersection in order to walk away from the men at the car. The Chinese men ran after them and first started punching the foreign man before throwing Sarah to the ground and kicking her in the face and chest. This went on for five minutes before a Chinese couple in a passing car heard the screaming and stopped to break up the fight.
The reason we're telling you all these details, including her name, is that Sarah wanted to not only make people aware of the problem but also educate them as to what needs to be done following an incident like this.
All too often we hear stories like this, but in most cases the expat involved does not file a police report. We're detailing what happened after the assault, step-by-step, in the hope that you'll be better informed should you ever require police assistance.
Sarah, with the help of a friend, called 110 right after the incident in order to notify the police. Another friend of hers called the US Embassy in order to report that a crime had been perpetrated against an American. The next morning she went to the police station near where the assault occurred in order to file an official police report. The police verified the time that the 110 call was placed, and required a copy of Sarah's passport to file with the paperwork.
Sarah needed to recount the details of the incident in Chinese while they transcribed her account. She brought along a friend in case she needed help translating, and if you find yourself in the same situation we would encourage you to do the same. It is perfectly fine to bring someone else with you to help record your testimony.
In total she spent about an hour at the police station, after which they gave her an official form to take with her to Chaoyang Hospital. She was instructed to go there within 48 hours in order for the hospital to officially assess her injuries and report them back to the police department. This is a very important step because it may determine the severity of charges that are later pressed. In cases involving physical assault, this is also just a generally good idea in order to assure that you are not seriously injured.
If you ever find yourself the victim of a crime, no matter the severity, we urge you to follow these steps in order to file an official police report. With enough of these incidents on record, there will hopefully be a change in how Sanlitun is patrolled and protected. In the mean time, please exercise caution when out late at night and always be aware of your surroundings.
It makes me so upset that the recent assault of a Chinese woman by a Western man has been turned into such a nationalistic issue, when people should really be more upset that women can be assaulted by anyone--Chinese or foreign--on the street in Beijing these days, and there are no police there to stop it. This assault on Wednesday, like so many I've heard about in Sanlitun in the past year, started with an incident RIGHT outside the police station. I can't understand why they don't have a police car out there patrolling that street all the time. Instead, they crack down on illegal English teachers?? WTF?
+1 to sienna's comment. Lived in Beijing for 6 years and I still don't know what the cops do there.
It is par for the course here. The State encourages any criticism (no mater how vocal or irrational) as long as it is directed at things outside of China. They feed the mentality.
"...in most cases the expat involved does not file a police report" After you do it once, you never do it again. The first/last time I filed a report, I spent the whole night in a police station while every single Chinese person tried to make me believe that it was my fault. - A pivotal day in my last decade here in China.
Why is this not on the front page with other recently written posts? This is arguably the single most important thing for expats right now in China.
@kaier Did I read you correctly: you got attacked and the cops tried to tell you it was your fault? outrageous
Another girl, this time British, got attacked last night in the south of Beijing. She was grabbed and groped outside a supermarket, no one proceded to help her, and the man ran after her down the street. She was incredibly lucky to get away from him. She is shaken but doing ok, as far as I know she did not file a report. I have lived in Beijing for 4 years and have never been scared to walk alone but I will have a friend escort me home from work tonight. So sad.
This has happened to five people I know in the past 12 months. Three of them were air-lifted to their countries for emergency treatment. This weekend 2 of my friends were harassed, their bikes/cars kicked and surrounded by a gang and were shouted at to get out of China. More media attention needs to be paid to this issue.
@jetblack - Where were your friends over the weekend when they were harassed?
@jetblack It's pretty sad to witness that "Boxers" are coming back. What we can do as foreigners in China, besides learning how to protect ourselves, is making the issue public outside of this walled-fence called Chinese internet and spread the word in our home countries and communities.
the first step, in my opinion, is to get a full view of the facts of the scope of the problem. We need a centralized database of these attacks--when, where, circumstances, nationalities, etc (names are not necessary). Otherwise its all anecdotal and any reporting abut it becomes either scare--mongering or blinders on. neither of which is going to do anything. I personally only know of two attacks, though I have obviously heard of many more. However, I dont know if the attacks other people are referring to are the same ones I am familiar with or different. Without a documented database, these individual tragedies of attack will remain just that.
I'm so sorry to hear about this. The mood has changed and it is palpable. It is unfortunate, too, because people like Sarah are here making a contribution to the community and don't deserve to be in any way the target of this kind of hatred or abuse.
There was also this last week: http://beijingcream.com/2012/05/a-brutal-bloody-beatdown-in-sanlitun-last-week/
@alicialui I wonder why nobody has the guts to intervene. The guy's frigging shooting on the red cross. It would had been 20 vs 1 and the guy would had surely stopped kicking that poor sod in the head.
2 days ago, there was an altercation between two drunk chinese men and one other( who was with foreigners). They started to kick the french guy with weapon and tell him to move his ass way from China... Finally, he went to the hospital with important injuries...
it was on the north of beijing
Of course they'd want to have a scapegoat to deflect from the real issues facing many Chinese in China. Plus with the big anniversary coming up they want to focus people's attention on something else. What a mistake they're making. It's bad enough if there are anti-Japanese or French ( before the Olympics ) demonstrations, but beatings? Are they crazy? Do they not realize this will result in foreign countries making it more difficult for them to get visas again?
I find these beatings to be very disturbing. I think the whole "British" attempted rape was completely staged. A woman getting harassed outside a supermarket and no one helped. I hope she reported this not only to her embassy but to media outlets in her country.
about two week sago, on the way home from work at about 10pm in the backstreets of wudaokou i was assaulted by chinese man although there were 3 men present. I dont wish to go into details but i reported it to the police the following afternoon as i was to scared to go immediatelyto apolice station. needless to say i was les than impressed with the police officers. i was at the station for 3 hours and they blamed me for causing this asault (i am female, aparentlywomn should be home before dark!). they also defended my attackers saying that they were probably just drunks, depite the fac that it was a tuesday night. lasly they told me, despite my 4 years in china and my ability to speak chinese, that my attacker probably wasnt chinese but rather korean or japanese and that foreigners cant tell the difference between Chinese people and any oither _sian. lastly, seeing that the police would not investigate despite take my statement, i called my embassy who informed me th unfortunately they can offer little help except warn other embassies and oer citizens to be more careful. i suggest women i particular to be careful so they dont get hurt, i was smat in the way i behaved an avoid being really hurt but please be careful as it seems these retaliations are happening all over beijing.
well as a local here, I'm sorry to hear what had happened about these. Not only expats are suffering, but mostly, natives are plagued, always there is no cop patrolling around, because this is china. please be take care if you back home at the midnight or with your fellows together. best wishes~~
@tominsh: not sure why no one intervened, though from the video it looks like someone made a halfhearted attempt to stop the kicking ... and the guys who were filming looked quite amused by what they were seeing. maybe the attitude was, "why stop the entertainment?"
@alicialui a disgusting lack of civic sense and justice if you ask me. The entertained mob of morons could have easily stopped that massacre. O tempora, o mores! Bad times we live in.
@frostys money talks above anything else. Realism pays. So the message we should send out to our homelands and embassies and media is: "Foreign investors should watch out because China is incrementally becoming less tolerant of foreigners and violent episodes of racism are no longer unheard of". FDI (foreign direct investment) and exports are still the two main pillars of the Chinese "scorched earth development" (as one writer in a recent piece commenting the wave of violence on The Economist said)... Now do your 2+2.
I think it would be fantastic if cityweekend, after seeing how much community demand there is for a portal that would serve news/report system of attacks around the city. Obviously, this would be community maintained in terms of updates of who, what, when and what was done. Still individuals can keep their anonymity if desired.
There isn't such a portal nor service and city weekend could benefit from the traffic.
Crime, especially, towards foreigners is under-reported (or crime in general).
Police is useless. We all know that. But at least we can keep each other up-to-date on crime and track anti-foreign sentiment of the nation.
Why can't the embassies & consulates, put foreign pressure on China improving it's protection of foreign citizens? Not only foreign citizens, it would be great if crime was surprised in general, but for foreigners it is tough as there is no one fighting to make sure that we are safe in this country.
As an expat who has lived here for about 7 years, I feel that the mood has been changing and that violence against foreigners is on the rise. I have been attacked twice in Sanlitun in the last year and narrowly escaped a third time. The story was the same each time - drunken Chinese men in their 20s who attacked without provocation while yelling racist/xenophobic slurs.
The first time happened while a friend and I were waiting for a cab between the Village South and Nali Patio. We were jumped by a group of 8 Chinese men in their early 20s. I did not see or interact with them before the attack - they came from behind, punched me in the back of the head and the ear, knocked my friend to the ground, and repeatedly kicked him in the head while yelling racist/xenophobic insults before running off. A few dozen people were right there but just stood by and watched.
The second time happened a few months ago in one of Sanlitun's nicer bars. A very drunk Chinese man in his late 20s rushed at me, ripped my shirt, and hit me over the head with a bar stool. He yelled a few anti-foreigner slurs. The waiters and other customers did pull him off that time – after he had thrown several bar stools at my head.
These incidents are not representative of my time in Beijing, and I certainly don’t think that they are representative of the general Beijing population, but I believe they represent an unfortunate trend – anti-foreigner violence started by small groups of nationalistic, xenophobic Chinese men with a chip on their shoulder to begin with that is further inflamed by viral videos and irresponsibly nationalistic content from the media and the Web and brought to a head by large amounts of alcohol.
In a city of 20 million people, it only takes a tiny fraction of the population to create a hostile environment, especially when such a large percentage of the population (including the police) is willing to stand by and watch. I have no desire to leave Beijing, or even to stop going to Sanlitun, but I have started crossing the street or walking the other way when I see a group of Chinese men who have been drinking – even if I’m right in front of the police station.
@tominsh No, perhaps I should have but I did not. In the first instance, I mentioned it to the police, but since I didn't have a good description of the attackers (it was dark, around midnight, they were wearing dark clothes, attacked from behind, and knocked off my glasses), the police said they couldn't do anything. They made it pretty clear that a foreigner getting beaten up at night in Sanlitun was not high on their priority list. Having had that experience, I didn't bother with the police the second time. Contacting my embassy didn't cross my mind either time - if the local police don't care, can the embassy really do much?
@tominsh they can surely do more than your voice against the Chinese state can my friend! They have the clout to make their Chinese counterparts aware of this. Police cops are mostly unhelpful. My friends in Brazil, while there, told me: "if you have problems, just stop a prostitute or a thug down the street and ask for help, but don't go to the cops". Guess the same applies to the C in BRICS.
I think if anyone starts hassling you take their picture and send it to different embassies. Why should racist morons be able to go to foreign countries?
Violent crime definitely seems to be on the rise in Beijing (just look at Weibo for reports of Chinese people being robbed at knife point in their own apartment complexes etc.), but anti-foreign sentiment? I'm not so sure. I think people in Beijing are in general nicer to foreigners than people in other countries are. Just now I was at Sanyuanli Market, and the vegetable seller was like "You're from America? I love your country!" That kind of thing happens to me a lot here, but I can't imagine it happening very often to Chinese people in America. Last time I was in NYC, a woman at a store told me she liked my bag and asked where I got it. When I replied that it was from China, her expression instantly changed and she was like, "Oh, I wouldn't want to go there..." Studying abroad in Switzerland, many of my classmates were verbally harassed by xenophobic locals who said horrible things to Americans simply for being American. Studying abroad in Russia, we all had to keep our passports on us at all times, as police are known for stopping people who look foreign to check and hopefully get a bribe if the person doesn't have their papers. I'm not saying that China or Beijing is perfect, but one must really consider what it's like to be foreign in your home country.
@behemothinexile - While your embassy may not be able to do anything in the short term, they all keep records of crimes against their country's citizens. Once the stack of reports gets to a certain number is when an embassy will start getting involved in local affairs. It may seem like a small consolation, but it's still a worthwhile step to take.
@siennapc. Do not be naive in thinking that the anti-foreigner sentiment here is similar to your school friends yelling jibes at foreigners.
I have three foreign girlfriends who have been at kicked in the head and bashed by Chinese gangs in the past 6 months. Two were flown to their countries for emergency facial surgery. They were French and German. I also have two german friends who were left for dead in a basement carpark after being bashed so hard by a gang that even the hospitals thought they would die.
I myself have had three separate people yelling at me to 'go back to where I come from' in the past three days. You hear countless accounts of Chinese smashing beer bottles and whacking foreigners, girls and guys.
That racial-hatred attack from Yang Rui and the dubious 'rape' video has stirred hatred in a very terrifying way. This is not something to be ignored.
Be very careful and please don't ignore what is a truly scary situation. Racial hatred is a very dangerous weapon.
@dinerdiana there's total blackout about this growing wave of racial hatred in China.
@siennapc being a foreigner in Europe is fantastic. You get free healthcare! And you have RIGHTS. Your stories are cool, though you're bringing in episodes of petty school bullying (the "American" in your story is exchangeable with "nerd", "four eyes", etc.) and endemic police corruption (Russia) which don't really have something to do with publicly tolerated, campaign-fuelled violent racism. Because this is what we're talking about. To be honest with you, I'm scared. Violence against immigrants happens everywhere, but here in China we are ALONE and nobody sides with us.
There is not a blackout in the Western media about this. There are stories on CNN, the New York Times and The Economist. Of course this racially based hatred and violence is terrifying and inexcusable--I am only pointing out that it happens all over the world. And there is no need to write off something that happened in Europe as merely trivial. My friend was surrounded by a gang of young men on public transportation and harassed with very hateful language. No, she was not injured or anything, but that kind of situation--just like being shouted at in Beijing to "go home"--is very scary and leaves a lasting negative impression of a foreign country.
And @dinerdiana, I am really shocked and terrified to hear your friends' stories. I had no idea these kinds of things were happening, and I consider myself warned. Can you share any details about where/what time these incidents happened?
Time/date: Friday evening, around midnight.
Location: Huayuanzixing compound (right next to Kangbao gardens east gate/ south of Sanlitun SOHO).
I was returning home from Face bar on my bike when a man (also on a bike) stopped next to me at a red light. He sexually harassed me by grouping me. I responded by pushing him off me and biking away and thought of it as nothing more than him just being another creep.
When I get to my building it takes me some time to open the gate with my key card. As soon as I open the building door the man is behind me trying to push me in side while grouping me between my legs. I react aggressively (on autopilot), fighting back and start shouting at him. The man gets startled by my reaction and I manage to get inside the building and close the door, and the man runs off.
All this happens as the building security guard is sitting a stone throw away not doing anything to assist me. I have not reported this to my embassy (I don’t think they have an official system to take in these types of issues), but I know a "security newsletter" circulates regularly around the embassies. If anyone knows who publishes these and how to contact them perhaps it would be a good idea to make that information available to everyone here so that these incidents can be included.
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. It is after all a huge city and there is bound to be some creeps/psychos/aggressive people out there given the share number of people living here.
@sigrid_ekman I totally understand how you feel. I wrote my original comment when i was still very angry but i have realised as you said that this may not be foreign-related or xenophobic in nature but I always thought Beijing was safer than other places so I didnt think it would ever happen. I contacted my embassy but they said they can do nothing and the police seemed rather useless and said i cant blame the person that goped me because they could have been drunk... None the less, everyone bothe male and female, chinese and foreign should be careful, especially in the evening. I did also see a lady recently, in liudaokou, arguing with a man who was trying to touch her in the street she was crying, luckily some locals stepped in and told him to go away.
A friend of mine and me were attacked by SECURITY people of a bar in Sanlitun, from the back. Stitches in the head for him, and for me, a broken hand as after a sworm from the back I managed to hit the security boss once before his men struck again.
We just wanted to enter the place, next to Jingkelong. I didn't went to Sanlitun for 2 years, after having been there dozens of times, with my skateboard always, years ago. Nothing ever happened.
I first enter the bar to be pushed out without a word and at the same time the security dude tried to take my skateboard. I went out and start to ask question, in chinese, like what is wrong, why do you treat me like this ? My friend also start to ask them what was wrong, and got beaten as an answer. I then followed the dude that was responsible of the security, who tried to leave, telling him, and I insist nothing more than that they were crazy (sheng jing bing). He said, wait, then I got hit by a wave from the back that aimed at my head, I struck back and broke my hand, after beeing touched by a second sworm and finished by kicks as a was lying on the ground.
No one helped me at first, quite normal. I got back my hat and started to look for my skateboard. Asked some people there if they've seen it. I have then been helped by 3 chinese, a woman that clean my face and 2 guys that went asking for my board.
I stayed around the entrance of this 'bar' for a while. The boss of the security left. I was wondering why. I wanted to make a report a the cops. One, with 2 armed police dudes, finally came after I think around 20 minutes.
I went to sanlitun police station for the report, did it in chinese. The day after, my friend went to the police station too, to make a report. After trying to prevent our chinese wifes to help us there, the cops finally contacted a man called Inspector Lu, from the Chaoyang police for the foreigners, something like that. We both did a report to him.
After 2 weeks without any news, we both made phone calls to get some info. We called 110. The result is the day after this Inspector Lu called me to tell my wife she'd better not try to get information like this again. A kind of threat
A few days after, I went to this Inspector Lu's office, north of Ritan park, to make a THIRD report. It has been more than 3 weeks now, no news.
Ah Yes, news ... during this process, I've been told by this Inspector Lu that he knows who did that, but that they were not easy to catch, 'because their cellphone was off', and that 'Beijing is big'. So I said during the 3rd report, you said 'Beijing is big', so you're sure they're in Beijing right ? He said no no, not sure. Then I said China was also very very big, how will he do then ? That made him not really happy.
In conclusion, an attack by SECURITY PEOPLE OF A BAR, 3 REPORTS at the cops, for NOTHING in the end ... I presume these people at the bar are from the dongbei mafia and have good connections and/or the cops are afraid of them ...
I think foreigners should learn self-defense and fend off those drunk locals.
If some of those idiots try to pick a fight with me, I'll finish them in less than a minute.
noreaga, you need to escalate this to his superior, and tell you that you know people in the embassy who's coming done to breath on his neck if he doesn't investigate. It is also possible the police knows who did it and they are paid to offer the club protection from prosecution as long as the crime is not grave.