China Tourist

Inn trouble

Questions asked after assault on a woman at a popular hotel chain

Wanwan w

The attack in Beijing

Is human nature naturally good or evil? That was a question pondered by Mencius, an ancient scholar whose reputation is surpassed only by Confucius in Chinese history.

Mencius opted for ‘good’, illustrating his belief with the image of a child falling into a well: “Even nowadays, if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress.”

The philosopher determined that because of our innate feeling of “commiseration”, humans must be innately good too.

Unfortunately, press reports in current-day China have suggested that the Mencius well theory doesn’t hold water. In a shocking incident this month – video of which later went viral online – a woman was attacked by a stranger as she was searching for her hotel room key. Hotel staff and a number of guests did nothing to help her.

On April 3, the victim of the assault – identified by her weibo handle “wanwan_2016” – returned to the four-star Yitel Hotel in Beijing. She reports that the man who later attacked her followed her into the lift and grabbed her when she got to the door of her room. Two days later, disappointed with the police response to the assault, she posted the surveillance footage of the event online. Within 12 hours it had been shared over 65,000 times.

Many netizens claimed that onlookers hadn’t intervened because they thought Wanwan and her attacker were a couple. (Seemingly, domestic violence is still a private affair in the minds of many people. Indeed China’s first law against domestic violence only came into effect in March.)

The police also seemed unwilling to help. On April 5 the Beijing Public Security Bureau claimed on its weibo microblog: “Regarding the suspect’s motives, Beijing police have explained to the media that the netizen ‘wanwan_2016’ did not suffer any financial loss nor any physical harm, and it is suspected that the assailant was drunk.”

Wanwan has refuted the claim that the man was drunk (and it isn’t clear why the police should think that this makes any difference to how the case was handled). But later in the week, when they arrested a man who confessed to being the attacker, they discovered his real motive.

According to subsequent police reports, the attacker, surnamed Li, worked with a prostitution ring, distributing flyers inside hotels. When he arrived at the hotel on April 3, he mistook Wanwan for a competitor. Thinking she would undercut his business, he conspired with his partners to “drive her away”.

Attention then turned to the hotel, which apparently permitted the flyers to be distributed on its property. reports that police discovered that the practice had been going on for some time.

Naturally, the manager of the hotel hasn’t welcomed the attention, telling a TV news team that Wanwan had “hyped-up” the attack.

“Firstly, no one was killed; secondly, there was no arson; and lastly, no one was raped. The police arrived and they’re investigating, how is this an issue?” he asked.

Home Inns Hotel Group (which owns Yitel Hotels) was quick to disassociate itself from these comments, adding that the manager had been “punished”.

But others agreed that there was something suspect about the case – pointing to the fact that Wanwan’s weibo page was created immediately prior to publishing her story about the assault. Some even noted that the story’s release coincided with the acquisition of Home Inns Hotel Group by Ctrip-backed BTG Hotels, although how either brand would benefit from this kind of publicity is open to question.

Nonetheless, the acquisition might be a good time for the chain to evaluate its security measures, as well as the implication that some of its hotels are favoured venues for paid sex.

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