Police in China’s northern Inner Mongolia have launched an official investigation into the beating of five newly-recruited firefighters in Wuhai city after a video that showed them being abused by senior soldiers went viral over the weekend, reported China’s Southern Metropolis Daily.
The 16-minute-long clip that recorded the beatings received millions of views and shocked China’s online community, who called it a disgrace and demanded authorities get to the bottom of the scandal. Yet many bloggers, after viewing the clip, said it was just the tip of the iceberg of the corruption-riddled People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The clip showed five young soldiers who were made to stand next to each other and take beatings from what appeared to be senior soldiers. The seniors took turns torturing the new recruits, hitting them in the face, kicking them in their stomach, and banging their heads into a concrete wall. Several of the recruits collapsed onto the floor after being attacked. Yet the torture resumed as the new soldiers were immediately asked to to stand up and take more beatings.
Senior soldiers were heard shouting highly offensive slurs at the new recruits throughout the beatings in the clip.
Watch: Seniors beat up newly-recuited fire fighters
In an official statement issued by Wuhai’s Fire Services Department on Monday evening on Weibo, authorities confirmed that the incident took place in June last year. An investigation is underway and several officers responsible for the attack have been suspended, it said.
“We deeply apologise to the victims and our society,” reads the statement.
Yet commentators on Weibo, China’s popular microblogging service, showed no signs of forgiveness.
“My mother cried after watching this video,” wrote a blogger. “How are mothers ever gonna trust their sons with this kind of army? ”
Others shared stories of friends who had suffered as new recruits in the PLA, calling the bullying part of military culture.
“My friend was forced to do the laundry for senior soldiers in his unit everyday, and was asked to buy them cigarettes and meals,” one microblogger wrote. “But he joined others into bullying new recruits immediately after his first year.”
“And are we going to take back the Diaoyu isalnds with this kind of troop? Dream on!” another blogger said.
Despite the overwhelming criticism, a microblogger - whose profile says he himself is a firefighter in Jilin province - defended the beatings.
“I had been tortured when I was a new recruit in the army, and both sides are to blame,” he wrote. “New soldiers make annoying mistakes - how will they ever mature without undergoing suffering?”
"This is how things work in the army," he added.
Troops of China’s fire department are a paramilitary unit that reports to the country’s Ministry of Public Security.