Bystanders harass a Chinese woman in the #MeToo case

BEIJING (Associated Press) – A Chinese woman was pushed by hostile passers-by as she headed to court Tuesday in one of the …

BEIJING (Associated Press) – A Chinese woman was pushed by hostile bystanders as she headed to court Tuesday in one of the few remaining #MeToo cases from a watered-down movement whose legacy remains uncertain.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, a former intern at China’s state-run CCTV station, became the face of the #MeToo movement in the country after he announced charges against a prominent CCTV host in 2018. Since then, the movement has been largely shut down by the authorities as the activists found themselves. Online posts were censored and pressured by authorities when trying to organize protests, but Chu continued to speak out.

Zhou told reporters outside the court, where unidentified men and women came and tried to push her forward.

“Epidemic safety,” one woman yelled, trying to stop Zhou from speaking, while a man wondered if it was appropriate for her to speak alone.

Police soon surrounded a young man who tried to raise a banner that read “We stand together” and took the banner off his hand. He later said that the police then asked for his national identification number.

The hearing was the latest in Zhou’s lawsuit against CCTV host Zhu Jun, who she accuses of molesting and forcibly kissing her in 2014. She is asking for a public apology as well as damages of 50,000 yuan ($7,600).

While the movement no longer has protests and lawyers and others helping victims take legal action, some people still push for justice for victims of sexual violence, even if they don’t cite the #MeToo hashtag.

A string of accusations of sexual assault and rape in recent weeks have attracted national attention. Most notably, an Ali Baba employee was accused of sexually assaulting two men. Chinese-Canadian singer Chris Wu has also been arrested in Beijing on suspicion of rape due to accusations leveled online.

In August, accusations posted online separately by victims led to the detention of a math teacher for forced harassment and the firing of a popular Hunan TV anchor. Shanghai police, who initially declined to file charges in the latest case, said they had reopened the investigation.

“These incidents are part of #MeToo, without a doubt,” said Lu Bin, founder of Feminist Voices, an online publication that was shut down by censorship in 2018. “Without #MeToo, it’s impossible to imagine these kinds of things coming out.”

After the #MeToo movement swept China, authorities responded with legal changes that activists and legal experts say have yet to lead to real change on the ground. They defined sexual harassment in the country’s civil code, a massive effort approved in 2020 that organized civil laws and promised certain rights to citizens.

However, victims of sexual violence face legal and social obstacles in their pursuit of justice.

“The messages are very powerful … and they are telling people this is going to change things,” said Darius Longarino, a researcher at Yale Law School. “But on Earth, in the actual system, there are still many pitfalls.”

In a recent report, Longarino and colleagues found only 83 civil cases in public databases related to sexual harassment or harassment between 2018 and 2020. Of the 83 cases, 77 were filed by the alleged harasser against a corporate or victim. Only six cases were filed by the victims against the harasser.

Zhou’s case remained on file for two years before a Beijing court agreed to hear it last December. The second part of the hearing, originally scheduled for May, was canceled on the day by the court.

All along, Chu pushed to make the court hearing a public matter and asked Chu Jun to appear before the court, citing basic court procedures.

When the lawsuit was filed in 2018, these complaints were treated as labor disputes or under other laws not directly related to sexual harassment. Zhou’s company was described as a “personality rights dispute”.

The court rejected her attorney’s request to hear her case under a legal provision that was enacted after she filed the lawsuit that explicitly referred to sexual harassment.

“I believe that justice in these fundamental proceedings is a necessary path to take to obtain a just outcome, and all the efforts we made prior to the hearing are not only for victory, but for fundamental fairness,” Zhou wrote on WeChat’s social media post. account on Monday.


Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press News Assistant Carolyn Chen contributed to this report.

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