Woman sues hotel chain after fighting off naked stranger in room

Society & Culture

A naked man forced his way into a woman’s hotel room in Shanghai. She’s suing the hotel for an apology and to compel the hotel chain to adopt new security policies.

ji hotel

Last week, a Chinese beauty blogger garnered national attention after sharing a tearful video in which she recounts her harrowing experience fighting off an attempted sexual assault in her hotel room. Now the woman, who identified herself as Huāhuā 花花 in media reports, has filed a lawsuit against the company that owns the hotel. She’s not suing for money, though. Instead, she’s asking for a public apology and stronger security policies from the hotel to ensure no repeat of her incident. 

Huahua’s case first came to light on August 5, when she uploaded an emotional six-minute video (in Chinese) to Weibo detailing the attack that happened the day before. “I never thought this would ever happen to me,” she begins the video, seeming visibly distraught. “At 3 a.m., a completely naked man walked into my room.”

According to Huahua, the incident occured when she stayed at a JI Hotel in Shanghai’s Pudong District. She was working on her laptop in bed when the man brazenly entered her room and approached her. “I kept saying, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ to which he replied, ‘Stop playing games with me. You were inviting people over with the door being open,” she says.

She screamed for help, which caused the assailant to flee. Huahua immediately contacted the hotel’s security staff, but they initially denied her request to watch surveillance footage. But she had called the police. After they arrived, the hotel agreed to share the footage, which showed the man, who was also a customer of the hotel, lurking in his underwear on multiple floors in the building that night, trying to break into occupied rooms. This lasted for almost 50 minutes before he found that the door to Huahua’s room wasn’t properly shut.

In her conversation with hotel employees, Huahua also found that prior to her incident, a different hotel guest had already registered a complaint about the man’s “abnormal behavior.” But he faced no substantial consequences other than being escorted back to his room by a security guard. 

The next morning, police arrested the man. Huahua says in the video that when confronted by her, the hotel’s manager showed no remorse and refused to take responsibility or make security changes, acting as if being attacked was entirely Huahua’s fault. 

“Their security measures were basically nonexistent,” Huahua says in the video while holding back her tears. “I’ve waged war against them and I will fight until the end. This is where I’m at right now. I also want to advise every woman to be vigilant and speak up when similar things happen.”

Huahua’s video quickly struck a nerve, generating millions of views and sparking a flurry of trending tags on Weibo. In the following days, thousands of Weibo users left supportive messages on Huahua’s page, with a number of past customers of the JI Hotel corroborating her claim about the “door problem” and sharing similar stories of security threats and management inaction.

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“The JI Hotel is my go-to choice for accommodation during business trips and I’ve had problems with the door of my hotel rooms on multiple occasions,” the most upvoted comment (in Chinese) on Huahua’s video read. Another person wrote (in Chinese), “As a woman, every time I stay at a hotel by myself, I feel I am putting my life in danger. I always bring extra door locks for additional security.”

Founded in 2010, the JI Hotel is a midrange brand owned by Huazhu Hotels Group, one of the biggest hotel management companies in China. According to its website, the JI Hotel currently has over 1,100 properties operating across China. The chain is no stranger to controversy: In 2017, a housekeeper at one of its locations was caught by a hidden camera using guests’ face towels to clean toilet seats. Two years later, Huazhu Hotels Group faced intense criticism for exposing the personal information of millions of its guests, including some who had stayed at JI hotels. 

In response to Huahua’s video, the JI Hotel issued a statement (in Chinese) on August 6, admitting that it had “broken customers’ trust” and vowing to take corrective measures nationwide to ensure safer services, such as increasing patrol shifts at night and improving the quality of door locks.

That, however, wasn’t enough to placate Huahua, who announced today that she is taking legal action against the chain, seeking a symbolic one yuan ($0.15) in damages. In a video (in Chinese) explaining her intention, the blogger says that she wants a public apology dedicated to herself and an industry standard to be put in place to ensure hotel guests’ safety. 

Huahua’s crusade is just a small part in what feels like a war that has erupted between Chinese women and businesses that have long ignored safety concerns raised by female customers. Just yesterday, as Chinese tech giant Alibaba announced the firing of a male employee accused of sexually assaulting his female colleague during a work trip, the hotel they stayed at in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, also attracted public anger for giving the man an additional key card to the victim’s room without asking for her permission. In the past few years, deaths or cases of sexual violence invovling female customers have also forced a string of Chinese companies to tackle safety problems in their services, including ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and on-demand moving startup Lalamove.