Three teenage assailants were brought to justice thanks to social media, after a disturbing video clip showing them brutally assaulting a student went viral, bringing it to the attention of police.
All three were taken into custody on Monday just 30 hours after Beijing police launched an investigation in swift response to widespread online outrage over the violence displayed in the video clip.
In the eight-minute-long clip which first surfaced on China’s largest microblogging platform Weibo, three shirtless adolescent boys were seen taking turns to repeatedly punch and kick a smaller teenager. The teens were seen laughing and joking throughout the assault despite the badly hurt victim begging for mercy.
At one point, one assailant was seen smashing what seems like a satchel-sized cement block to the young boy’s head as he sits on the ground, subsequently knocking him unconscious. But that didn’t stop one of the shirtless teenagers from unfastening his trousers and urinating on the victim’s face as he lay passed out on the ground.
The disturbing video clip, which appeared to be taken by someone accompanying the assailants with a smartphone, upset many online users and quickly went viral after it was uploaded and published on Weibo.
Tens of thousands of online users commented and reposted the video clip on social media sites within hours. Most of them fiercely condemned the violence, with some users calling on the public to help identify the attackers. Many others posted on the police forces’ official accounts, demanding authorities act quickly to investigate the case and bring the trio to justice.
Beijing police quickly responded on their official blog and said they had launched an investigation, within hours of the video going viral.
Some internet users quickly identified the location of the video as a remote area of wasteland in Beijing. Another user publicised the online instant messaging information of one of the assailants. The clues eventually helped police to arrest all three.
According to a police statement, the assailants were all minors and school dropouts, two aged 15 and another aged 17. The victim, a 14-year-old elementary school student, has received medical treatment in hospital and is recovering well. Police said the incident occurred last Friday and that the assault had stemmed from “a minor dispute”.
The victim told The Beijing News that he did not dare to tell his parents or call police after the beating because he was afraid of retribution. Several other neighbours and schoolmates of the victim told the paper that the assailants were long-known to bully teenagers in the area.
Beijing police have not yet announced what charges the teenagers are facing, but said the investigation was still in progress.
“We deeply appreciated the help from internet users in providing valuable clues during this case’s investigation,” the Beijing police bureau said on its official blog.
Police on Wednesday said the three suspects are being investigated on suspicion of arson and robbery, as well as facing assault charges.
According to criminal law in China, minors between 14 and 16 years old can be prosecuted for serious criminal offences such as assault or arson, but they are usually given lenient sentences.