An attack on a bridesmaid near the central Chinese city of Xi’an has attracted widespread condemnation from Chinese state media and social media users, in what is the latest instance of bridesmaid abuse in China.

A video [disturbing content] circulating online showed two men sitting beside a bridesmaid in a vehicle. One of the men is seen restraining her by putting one leg across her body while he holds her arm. He appears to put his hand down her blouse as the other man helps restrain her by holding her arm.

Photo: Screenshots.

The victim in the clip is in obvious distress, crying out and trying to bite her attackers as she struggles against them. The men laugh as they attack her, telling her to “make sex noises” as she complains that they are pulling her hair.

At another point in the video, the men appear to be trying to remove her underwear. It showed that her dress had been hitched up and the area around her buttocks is red. One man said: “How come you can’t even take off her underwear?” as the other man appeared to reach under her dress.

The footage appeared to have been shot by someone sitting in the front passenger’s seat in the car. According to local paper Huashangbao, the incident lasted around three to five minutes.

Photos of the two suspects posted on Weibo by Xi’an police.

After the video went viral on Chinese social media, police put out a call for citizens to report information. Police in Xi’an took a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old into custody on Saturday morning, and are investigating the incident, they said on Weibo. Huashangbao also reported that the victim did not plan on taking legal action against her attackers because she knew the two men, citing information from “multiple parties.”

‘Uncivilised’ attack

Gao Jin, a lawyer in Shaanxi province, told the paper that the two men may be guilty of indecent assault under Chinese criminal law, which carries a punishment of up to five years in prison or short-term detention. Gao urged victims who meet with similar experiences to call the police.

After the video was posted online, “the bridesmaid and the two men all bore a huge psychological pressure, and [the incident] caused the bride and groom to feel very embarrassed,” Huashangbao said.

The video met with outrage on popular microblogging platform Weibo.

“Isn’t the harmful practice of teasing bridesmaids being fueled by people like this? Trash,” one user said. Others called for the person recording the ordeal to be arrested as well.

Weibo posts attributed the incident to the wedding tradition of teasing the bride and groom, known as “naohun.” State broadcaster CGTN condemned the incident on Saturday, saying that similar incidents should not be blamed on corrupt customs, but rather on the fact that those who carry out the attacks are “uncivilized” and lack legal knowledge.

Photo: Weibo.

According to CGTN, wedding game traditions were originally used as an icebreaker to acquaint the bride and groom with each other when couples married young and arranged marriages were common.

The tradition has been accused of making bridesmaids vulnerable to sexual harassment or abuse, and recent incidents have brought the issue to the fore. Victims are often reluctant to speak out, for fear of tarnishing the festivities, as well as their own reputations.

Last year, video footage from a celebrity wedding of groomsmen attempting to dump Chinese actress Liu Yan into a swimming pool when she was a bridesmaid at her friend’s wedding went viral. It generated heated debate on social media for weeks, with many arguing that the groomsmen’s actions went too far.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.