China / Society

Self-defense gadgets popular after hotel assault

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-04-21 21:01

BEIJING -- There has been an "enormous rise" in the demand for self-defense products including personal safety alarms, tactical pens and keychains in China following a hotel assault in early April.

Major online shopping malls said that the sales of self-defense items increased markedly over the past weeks, in particular a sharp rise in purchases from females, after a video emerged on April 5 apparently showing a woman being throttled and pulled away in the hallway of a Beijing hotel by a man who was handing out cards with prostitute information and thought the woman was a competitor.

The video clip sparked widespread anger and turned women's safety and self-defense gadgets into major talking points in the country.

The most popular self-protection item sold at online shops is a portable alarm, which can let out a siren-like sound reaching 120 decibels or more when triggered.

"The sale of personal safety alarms has been increased by nearly 100 times. I sold more than 20,000 alarms over the past two weeks, equaling the total sales of six months before the incident," said a shop owner on

Data from Shenzhen Airuize Electronics, another online shop, showed sales of 40,456 personal safety alarms on April 6 alone, with daily revenue reaching more than 801,000 yuan (around $124,000).

According to an online survey, more than 60 percent of 119 interviewees regarded self-defense gadgets useful or better than bare-handed when facing dangers.

"A prepared woman is worth two women who are not prepared," Web user "YuyueNYC" commented on her Sina Weibo account. She purchased a portable self-protection stick online and carries it while jogging at night.

Self-defense or self-defeat?

Personal protection devices usually come in two categories: safer products like safety alarms and whistles, and more risky gadgets, such as pepper sprays, tactical pens with a sharp tip that can deliver a powerful blow, and self-defense comb whose head conceals a dagger made from durable fiberglass material.

According to Chinese regulations, pepper spray, self-defense combs and sticks are not allowed to be sold on the market or carried by citizens in public places, said Li Yongjian, a Beijing-based lawyer.

There is no result when searching "pepper spray" on China's major online shopping platforms. However, some shop owners who claim that they sell personal safety alarms actually sell pepper sprays, and many small websites also secretly offer such product on the Internet.

Self-defense gadgets may make women feel empowered instead of afraid. But using the risky items at random may cause harm to women themselves as well as innocent others.

Pepper sprays contain stimulating liquids like high concentration of capsaicin, which can cause tears, eye pain, temporary blindness and coughing.

"I once triggered pepper spray by mistake in a 40-square-meter room. I was able to enter the room two hours later. You can imagine, if we use the product in a hotel's hallway to resist an attacker, we ourselves also cannot breathe," said "Yijinyexingdeyangongzi" on her Weibo account.

In early April, a woman was found carrying pepper spray when she attempted to enter a Beijing subway station. Security staff stopped her and called police.

In 2014, two men were jailed for causing a stampede by spraying pepper spray in a subway car in south China's Guangdong Province. "It is impossible to tell each passenger's intentions. Most risky self-defense items including pepper spray are forbidden on the underground system," said a Beijing subway staff.

Li Yongjian suggested producing high-tech and safer self-defense products for women, which can deter the assailant and be allowed by laws and regulations. He also called on authorities to enhance supervision on self-defense gadgets on the online market.

"It is necessary for women to learn how to protect themselves, but it is more important for us to mobilize all social efforts and create a trusty environment to ensure their safety," said Liu Bohong, a professor with the China Women's University.

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