'Guanxi' and the black society

2022. 6. 28. 19:55
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Despite the announcement, however, the incident exposed how the black society colluded with the local public security police.

PARK SEONG-HUNThe author is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The black society is not a name for a specific gang. It is a slang term collectively referring to the gangs engaging in illegal activities in China. The black society, which once seemed to be forgotten, has regained public attention because of its assault on women in Tangshan, Hebei Province, on June 10.

The shocking incident was reported both in and outside of China. Nine men mercilessly assaulted four women who were eating at a restaurant. The assailants suddenly touched one woman’s back and started an argument, and when she resisted, they dragged her outside, hit her with a beer bottle and trampled her face with their feet.

Other women trying to help were also attacked and were left with broken teeth and skull fractures. This terrifying violence in a public space shattered the slightest expectation that China was under tight control and that minimum safety would be guaranteed. Tangshan is a major city with 8 million people. The message brought up by the incident is not violence. It highlighted the shameful aspect of China known as “guanxi,” or the relationship between gangs and public authorities.

The video of the assault stirred the public, but it was revealed that the police did not investigate the case for more than three days after the incident. The victims filed a police report, but it was ignored. The public security police started a belated investigation, but the four assailants had already fled to other regions.

The focus of the people quickly shifted from an assault on women to why the police did not investigate. It was then revealed that the assailants were members of the black society. They were gang members involved in illegal gambling operations, usury and looking after bars. One assailant had even kept a woman in a car trunk for 10 hours and beaten her to the point of fracturing her skull, but he was not arrested.

From 2018 to 2020, Beijing implemented the “special eradication of organized crime.” According to the Ministry of Public Safety, 3,644 criminal organizations were cracked down on and 237,000 criminals were arrested during this period.

Despite the announcement, however, the incident exposed how the black society colluded with the local public security police. One Chinese person wrote on social media that when people suffer unfair damage, they would first look for powerful “guanxi” rather than report it to the police.

The city of Tangshan had gathered 10,000 public security police officers in the city square and held a ceremony for public security renewal. But residents laughed at them. “On June 2022, the police force formed for the first time in Tangshan,” they said.

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