The image is striking: a foreigner splattered with blood next to a Chinese man bleeding from nose and mouth in a Beijing subway. Chinese news media quickly reported the incident as a wild assault on one of their countrymen by an expatriate, and soon China’s internet was alight with half-truths, theories and hate towards foreigners. “Foreigners are so reckless and wanton on Chinese territory.” wrote one commenter. “Foreign running dogs!” There was a cry for punishment before the facts were even in, automatically assuming the foreigner had instigated the occurrence. “This is how base and crass foreigners really are.” But much like China’s outrage towards United Airlines over the treatment of what they identified as a fellow Chinese man, their accusations might’ve been premature.
“Is Beijing an occupied territory?”
According to initial reports, the caucasian man in the photo sat on the floor near the subway door with his Chinese female companion. An eyewitness identified only as Ms. Li said this restricted other people from getting on and off the Line 10 subway train. This started the initial argument between the two men, as the Chinese man told the foreigner, in English, to get up and out of the way.
“The arguing began at around 8.20am at Panjiayuan or Jinsong Station. Commuters could not get on the train because the young foreign man was blocking them by sitting down,” Li told Sohu News. “The young Chinese man wanted them to get up, but it seemed like the young foreign man did not want to heed his advice, and was not happy.”
Soon the argument turned physical, says Li, as the foreigner unleashed a wild torrent of punches after knocking the Chinese man’s glasses of his face. Bystanders quickly forced the expatriate into the corner, preventing him from leaving. While there is no footage of this initial attack (only of the aftermath), the foreigner’s body language seems to indicate that the assault was an ‘accident’ of sorts.
Li explains, “it was only because the young foreigner touched his body. It seemed the young Chinese man didn’t like to be touched.”
However, the internet’s angle of the innocent Chinese man ravaged by wild foreign scum quickly got turned on his head. Li revealed that the victim had approached the foreigner aggressively, calling him a variety of slurs such as ‘white trash’ and ranting at the man. “You can’t speak Chinese but come to China anyways? Are you just here to pick up girls?” After the incident, the foreigner tried to apologize, either downplaying the assault or sincerely trying to explain it had simply been an accident. Both men were taken in for questioning at Shuangjing station and the foreigner’s female companion had disappeared.
The collective knee-jerk reaction of the Chinese netizens is nothing new. It takes very little to wrinkle Chinese pride and admit that perhaps some nuance is in order to fully assess a situation. With comments like “Cops in China are always inclined towards white pigs”, it seems like they have already made up their mind.
“Hit back! Do it in the name of the people!”