First hearing for landmark sexual harassment case . . .
After more than two years’ delay, the first court hearing of China’s landmark sexual harassment case began yesterday in Beijing. Zhou Xiaoxuan, better known by her nickname, Xianzi, brought her experience to the spotlight in 2018 when the #MeToo movement was taking off in China. Zhou accused Zhu Jun – a prominent media figure and a household name in China – of forcefully kissing her when she interned at CCTV, a national broadcaster, in 2014. Since then, Zhou has been using Weibo to connect with and support other victims of sexual harassment. Over 100 supporters, both male and female, gathered outside the courthouse to encourage Zhou, showing an unusual level of civic activism. Heated discussions also took place online throughout the 10-hour hearing, as netizens shared information amid a dearth of Chinese media coverage.
Nascent, but thriving . . .
China’s #MeToo movement erupted in 2018 after Luo Xixi, a former student from Beihang University, published allegations of sexual harassment against a professor. Luo’s decision to go public was inspired by anonymous posts by the professor’s other victims and the case against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Since then, China’s #MeToo movement has continued in fits and starts, usually only gathering momentum and widespread public attention with high-profile cases such as Xianzi’s. University students have been crucial #MeToo activists, supporting survivors, pushing their institutions to enact and enforce anti-sexual harassment mechanisms, and even publicly opposing the reinstatement of professors with proven misconduct against students.
The power behind a hashtag . . .
China passed its first civil code in June 2020, clearly delineating an expanded definition of sexual harassment as a legal offence and closing significant legal loopholes that used to favour perpetrators. However, the civil code mostly holds individual institutions responsible for preventing and policing sexual harassment. It does not provide enforcement guidelines. Moreover, many women still do not feel comfortable coming forward, given the occasional public backlash against the accuser and the heavy emotional and personal toll drawn-out legal battles tend to have. The strong support that Zhou’s case has garnered among Chinese youth could pave the way for more substantial legal and social developments. As Zhou pointed out in an interview, it is not ultimately about winning or losing her case, but the significance in “allow(ing) the questions we raised at least to remain in history.”
- BBC: China #MeToo: Court to hear landmark case of intern versus TV star
- Matters (Blog Post): 我们都是弦子和她的朋友
- Reuters: In nod to #MeToo, China codifies sexual harassment by law