A video blogger has ignited a debate about women’s safety in China, after he posted videos of himself pretending to be a street magician so that he could fondle women’s breasts.
The man, who calls himself “Chris”, is shown approaching young women in the city centre of Chengdu. He asks them if he can show them a coin trick.
As he talks, the women appear to relax in his presence. Then he presses a coin to their chests and begins to fondle their breasts.
A local shop owner told local media that he had spotted the videos online and contacted police.
State-run news website The Cover said police had found the man – identified in media reports as a video blogger from Shanghai with the surname Xu – and were carrying out an investigation.
They are calling for women to come forward if they have been approached by him.
Who is this ‘magician’?
The blogger has more than 40,000 followers on microblogging network Sina Weibo, where he describes himself as an “online prankster”.
Since March, he has been posting videos in which he is shown stopping women in the street and asking them inappropriate personal questions.
In one video, he asks women questions such as “Do you use tampons?” and “Could I have a one night stand with you?”, and films their reactions.
His behaviour in recent videos has become increasingly brazen.
In one post, titled The Pick-up Master, he brags about his exploits after being covertly filmed kissing and fondling girls he has just met.
None of the faces of the women in his videos are pixelated, and many are filmed in open public spaces.
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‘Why so calm?’
A video compilation showing Xu groping women was posted on The Cover’s website, where it has so far received more than three million views.
Thousands took to Sina Weibo using the hashtags #StreetMagicianMakesNameTouchingBreasts and #MagicMaleAnchorTouchesChests to discuss it – many reacted angrily, calling the man “scum” and a “pervert”.
Some say they are concerned that the women featured didn’t even flinch during his advances, and some say they suspect him of using hypnosis.
“Why are all these women so calm?” asks one user called Rome_Roma.
Other Weibo users were concerned about the lack of intervention from passersby, given that the women were filmed in daytime on a busy street.
On Thursday, Xu issued an apology on video website Meipai.
He said that “in some footage, I did not get the permission of some women featured and caused problems for their families, for which I am extremely sorry”.
But many online users say they think an apology is not enough, and some are calling for Xu to be prosecuted.
One cited an article in Chinese law on indecent assault in public, for which the maximum prison sentence is five years.