2016-06-10 10:36:43

Footage of a Chinese man brutishly beating his wife and locking her in the trunk of a car has triggered online debate, casting a spotlight once again on violence against women in China.

The 80-second video, posted online on Thursday, shows a man slapping a woman repeatedly while she sits in the trunk of a car at a gas station in Cangzhou, a city in northern China’s Hebei province. The woman puts up strong resistance, but in the end is overpowered by the man, who eventually manages to shut the trunk of what appears to be a Volkswagen sedan. 

The video shows at least two other people witnessing the fight. One female onlooker appears distraught by what she sees and implores the man not to hit the woman, but her calls go unanswered. None of those standing around physically intervene, and neither did the person taking the video of the violent scene. 

The man eventually manages to shut the trunk with the woman locked inside, picks up his car keys that are on the ground, and pauses briefly to catch his breath. He then gets into the vehicle, presumably to drive off. 

On Thursday, Jia Yonghua, an official at the Hebei Provincial Public Security Department posted on her Weibo microblog that police had found the couple. She wrote that the woman showed no injuries, did not wish to lodge a complaint, and that the woman had said that she hoped to live happily with her husband.

In a reaction to the news, many net users called on the government nevertheless to prosecute the man. “Refusal to report should not be a reason for the judicial authorities not to open a case,” read one highly upvoted comment. “This is a criminal offense.”

According to Zhang Hongping, an expert on gender-related issues at the Institute of Chinese Culture at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, the culture of not reporting cases such as this to the police is the biggest problem in the fight against domestic violence.

“An attitude of ‘keeping the peace’ is very common in China,” she told Sixth Tone. “This is mainly because of the traditional notion that happiness of the family is more important than happiness of the individual,” Zhang added.

She also said authorities rarely pursue incidents like this. “Police and bystanders not putting a stop to this is akin to enabling the perpetrators of domestic violence,” said Zhang. 

On Friday afternoon, public security official Jia posted on her Weibo microblog that the man in the video had been taken into custody by local police after he had gone to the house of his father-in-law and “caused trouble.”

On June 5 a similar case happened in Beijing, when a woman was put in the trunk of a car by two men, one of whom police later reported was her boyfriend. 

Analysis based on a 2011 survey of more than 100,000 respondents by the government-affiliated All-China Women’s Federation suggests that as many as one in four married Chinese women has experienced domestic violence at the hands of their partner.

Typically, Chinese people have tended to consider abuse in the home as a private matter, best handled within the family.

But there is some evidence that such thinking is slowly changing. For example, China implemented its first national law on domestic violence on March 1. 

Experts say the new law is surprising wide in terms of the areas covered, which include physical and psychological abuse of spouses, minors, and old people. It also covers unmarried partners, although no mention is made of same-sex couples.

This article has been updated to reflect new developments.

Additional reporting by Li You. With contributions from Colum Murphy.

(Header image: Arman Zhenikeyev/RM Crave/VCG)