Dozens, if not hundreds, of cute half-naked foreign guys in Spartan costumes showed up in downtown Beijing on Wednesday.
They walked around a couple of the city's most popular neighborhoods, with some food boxes in hand, wearing sexy leather shorts and capes fixed with leather belts across their chests.
Having no idea why the Spartans were in China, passersby inevitably got curious and gathered when they walked by a perfect catwalk-y staircase.
It was later revealed that the gathering was a PR stunt put on by a salad restaurant called Sweetie Rock 'n' Roll Salad, imitating a flashmob that happened in London last May.
But before that came to light, people were just wildly guessing. One confused Weibo user, maybe hearing some of the Spartans' slogan-shouting, asked "today in the entrance of the Guomao subway station, what happened? What Rock 'n' Roll? What salad?"
And then the rumors started. Some thought the marketing campaign belonged to a salad dressing brand.
Local newspaper Beijing Youth Daily thought the foreign models were working for dessert restaurants, an idea that was cited by many other Chinese media outlets.
But then things went in a different direction. As the group of men walked along an overpass towards the Sanlitun area, they were overtaken by police and tackled.
Witnesses uploaded photos onto China's social media and the online discussion shifted. "So what's the answer? Is it because the Spartan warriors are trying to go to that Uniqlo store but somehow got swooped up by our police?"
The Chinese internet didn't really explode until it saw this picture: a policeman straddling a Spartan soldier. In East Asia, the movement is commonly described as a "tackle-cuddle," which is a romantic move that originated in anime.
Yes, a Beijing policeman literally did this to a hot Spartan soldier. But that means the Spartans were KO'd by Beijing police, unfortunately.
One Weibo user asked, "did you count on being tackle-cuddled in your publicity strategy? 😂 Your marketing director should at least apply for permission for the campaign to happen. That's just common sense."
In the end, the police decided to accost them to restore public order after the foreigners ignored several warnings, according to China state media Global Times. In China, big public gatherings are required to apply for permission from the authorities.
And so, sadly, it looks like nothing like this is going to happen in China again in the near future. Talk about a Greek tragedy.
Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.
Contact Beimeng Fu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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