BEIJING -- Two of the four female victims remain hospitalized 11 days after a group assault in northern China that sparked nationwide outrage, authorities said Tuesday, as they announced the firing of one police official and an investigation into the handling of criminal cases by the local police.
The Hebei province Public Security Department said in-depth investigations are being carried out into the slow response to incidents and “serious violations of laws and discipline” by police in the city of Tangshan, which is about 150 kilometers (100 miles) east of Beijing.
The assault raised concern about public safety and the mistreatment of women in society. Hundreds of thousands of people commented after videos of the attack were posted online, many calling for justice.
Police arrived at the scene 28 minutes after they received the report, and the injured had been sent to the hospital by the time they arrived, provincial authorities said in a statement. The deputy chief of the Tangshan police Lubei branch, which was responsible for the initial handling of the case, has been removed from office, though the statement did not say why.
Four women eating at a late-night barbecue restaurant were brutally attacked by a group of men in the early hours of June 10, after one of the women appeared to reject the advances of one of the men and fought back after she was slapped, surveillance video from the restaurant showed.
The attackers could be seen shoving the women to the ground, kicking them, throwing a chair at them, and later dragging one of the women out of the restaurant to continue beating her on the sidewalk. One had a bloodied and swollen face as she was taken away on a stretcher.
Nine suspects were arrested the next day. In recent days, rumors have spread online that at least one of the women had died, but the Hebei public security statement appeared to contradict that.
It said that the conditions of the two hospitalized women were improving and that they had sustained “second-degree light injuries.” The other two women were slightly injured and not hospitalized, the statement said.
While some online comments applauded the statement for refuting the rumors, more raised questions about the severity of the women’s injuries and the slow initial response of the police.
Reports of a series of gang crimes in Tangshan surfaced after the attack, along with public questioning of alleged ties between the police and gang members. The investigation into the case has been transferred to the police in another jurisdiction, the city of Langfang, which is also in Hebei province.
The Hebei province anti-corruption body said Tuesday that five police officers are under investigation, including the chief of the Lubei branch in Tangshan and at least two others from a police station under the Lubei branch.
Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen contributed.