In December, many Beijing expats turned on their cellphones to find grim rumors buzzing on social media platform WeChat – foreigners, it seemed, were the victims of a series of attacks. The details in the rumors varied – sometimes it was Sanlitun, other times Wudaokou. Were the perpetrators driving a BMW or a van? Were they armed with baseball bats or metal rods?
The rumors continued on Reddit, and The Beijinger forum, detailing threatening behavior and random acts of violence against a variety of foreign nationalities.
Then TWOC spoke to some victims of attacks and attempted attacks. First there was this case, where a foreign student warned other foreigners to be careful after he had allegedly been assaulted on the 13th of December by a group of six or seven men, with at least one holding a metal rod.
He said they seemed bothered by the fact he was with a woman who the attackers appeared to assume was Chinese.
The article also included comments from a witness of an attempted attack in Wudaokou. TWOC later spoke with the victim, who said that he had indeed been pursued by a group of men who shouted at him, but he had found refuge inside a nightclub.
TWOC was contacted by others who had also encountered a group of Chinese men, always armed with a metal rod, sometimes bats. Fortunately none of them were seriously hurt, though in two cases they were chased.
In one encounter, in the very early hours of Saturday the 28th of November, a French student, who was walking with a female friend, was walking along Gongti Xilu, near Sanlitun. Four men approached him, one holding what the student described as a kind of metal baton. They asked him where he was going, and then allegedly proceeded to chase him, swiping at his back with the bar. He said that once they reached the more well lit areas near Gongti Beilu, they backed off.
“I think they wanted to stay hidden,” he said. “It’s a little bit dark over there.”
These cases bore striking similarities to a recent incident which resulted in the arrest of three men after an act of violence. Beijing Cream reported on the case of an Australian student, who asked to be referred to by his first name Michael, who was reportedly assaulted on the 21st of December.
Michael, a former rugby winger, said that when a group of Chinese men in a grey BMW came close and shouted at him and his Korean girlfriend, he confronted them and explained she was Korean. They allegedly began hitting him with bats and rods, but he seized one of the rods and hit one of them in the back of the head. He told Beijing Cream that he shouted at them to leave while breaking the bat, but later the trio came back at them, and when his girlfriend fell down while entering a dorm they were assaulted again. A group of students, predominantly Russians, reportedly then aided them and called the police. The Beijing Cream report indicated that one of them was savvy enough to remove the keys from the car, which meant that the police were able to catch them.
Although the incidents are similar, there are some differences. According to the victim, in the attempted Sanlitun attack on the 27th of November, there were no vehicles involved, while the student allegedly attacked on the 13th of December in Sanlitun described the vehicle as a “wagon” in contrast to the “grey BMW” in the violent Wudaokou incident. In addition, three men were detained in the recent case, while the other incidents reported between four and up to seven attackers. So they may or may not be connected, but either way, be careful out there. Beijing is a safe place in general, but these incidents demonstrate it has its risks too.
If you witness an assault, be sure to contact the police immediately, so they have a chance to reach the scene in time. The emergency number for police in all of China is 110. Here are the locations and phone numbers for the nearest police departments in the areas affected.
Wudaokou Police Station
Sanlitun Police Station
It’s also worth keeping in mind that additional witness statements could be of assistance when prosecuting perpetrators of crimes, so in those cases the above numbers might prove handy.