A horde of lean white men scantily attired as Spartans in capes and short shorts descended on downtown Beijing on Wednesday, in a marketing stunt that was meant to promote an online salad delivery service. Appropriately, the invading male models were seen handing out packaged salads to bewildered pedestrians in China's capital.
Large crowds formed to photograph the men, and the images went viral on the Chinese social media platforms Weibo and WeChat.
Beijing's police, alarmed by the unexpected spectacle and unwilling to tolerate even a symbolic invasion of public space, quickly intervened — in some cases apprehending the individual salad warriors by force.
"Around noon on July 22, the city public security bureau received reports from the public saying there were dozens of foreign males wearing shorts and attracting a crowd," the police said in a statement. "Since it affected public order in the surrounding area, the police stopped the activity in accordance with the law, resumed order, and controlled some of the participants. Currently the case is under further investigation."
Sweetie Salad, the online restaurant/delivery service behind the stunt, released a statement clarifying that it had hired foreign models as food delivery men to commemorate the company's anniversary. But the size of the crowd "far exceeded our expectations," it said.
The company was quick to express admiration of the police response, calling it "timely."
"We have deeply recognized that as a start-up company, we lack experience in organizing large-scale offline activities," it conceded, assuring the authorities that it would "strictly follow the police's instructions" in order to help "ensure social order."
"We would like to thank the police again for their guidance and maintenance of our activity," Sweetie Salad said.
The authorities in Communists China are particularly wary of large crowds, public assembly, and spectacles that could prompt spontaneous protests or lead to a stampede. A panic and ensuing stampede in Shanghai killed 36 people this past New Years Eve.