Police clamp down on sexual harassment crimes on Beijing subway
Since June, Beijing police have conducted a sting operation in an effort to stem sexual harassment on the subway, arresting over 20 men who groped or made unwanted sexual advances on female passengers.
The campaign, which aims to tackle the rampant sexual harassment crimes on public transportation, has achieved remarkable results. According to Beijing police, more and more Chinese women are willing to fight back against sexual harassment rather than keep silent, but such crimes remain a problem and more effort is needed to stop them.
“Many cases have gone unreported because the victims were either embarrassed or felt their cases wouldn’t be dealt with seriously. Some even refused to help us or would just remain silent, allowing the perpetrators to get away,” a police officer told the Beijing Times.
According to a survey conducted by Minzu University of China in 2009 among 1,000 female respondents, only 2.1 percent said they would report sexual harassment to the police. Over 26 percent of the women said they had suffered sexual harassment on public transportation, while over 82.4 percent said they had heard or witnessed such crimes.
Victims’ feelings of humiliation have encouraged harassers. A search for the keywords “metro” and “hobby” on the popular instant messaging program QQ yields a number of chat groups for people to share their “experience” and trade videos or photos of victims.
According to news portal Ifengweekly.com, sexual harassment on public transportation has become an industry in China. Several websites offer users unlimited access to videos and photos of victims being harassed in subways, as long as the users pay a monthly membership fee of 19.9 RMB. The websites and chat groups also encourage people to take unwanted videos, while a five-minute short video can be sold for 50 to 250 RMB.
“I normally target those who look docile and timid, especially young students, as they feel embarrassed and will not report me,” said one harasser.
In order to tackle sexual harassment crimes on public transportation, local authorities in Beijing have made great efforts, including setting up more cameras in the subway. Some activists have also suggested that Beijing Metro system offer cars specially designated for women, a proposal that was turned down by the authorities for being too difficult to implement with the current metro system.
“I think authorities should provide victims with more legal support rather than put them in a cage. Meanwhile, society should have more sympathy and tolerance for the victims, as they are normally discriminated against due to their suffering. Severe punishment should also be imposed on the perpetrators,” said Wang Jinmei, a social activist of a Beijing-based woman protection organization.