Important Chinese #MeToo figure vows to appeal after losing case

A former TV intern who has become a leading voice in China’s #MeToo anti-sexual assault and harassment movement vowed to keep fighting after a Beijing court ruled she did not produce enough evidence in her case of harassment against a star presenter.

Former intern Zhou Xiaoxuan told supporters and reporters outside the Haidian District Court in Beijing that she would appeal after judges ruled against her request on Tuesday evening.

Ms. Zhou claimed in 2018 that Zhu Jun assaulted her in a locker room four years earlier. Mr. Zhu denied this accusation and sued Ms. Zhou, and she counterattacked him. Their legal battles have become a central case in China’s growing movement against sexual coercion of women.

The Beijing court dismissed Ms. Zhou’s case in a terse online statement that did not go into the substance of her claims. She had “presented insufficient evidence to prove her claim that a certain Zhu had engaged in sexual harassment,” the court said.

Standing on the street outside the courthouse shortly after the ruling, Ms. Zhou – who is widely known in China by her nickname, Xianzi – said judges had given him few opportunities to detail his allegations. She said they rejected her attorney’s efforts to present what she said was supporting evidence, such as video footage of outside the locker room, as well as police interview notes with her parents shortly after the episode.

“In the end, the court left us no space to make a statement,” she said in a 10-minute statement around midnight, oscillating between resignation and mistrust.

“I think I did all I could,” she added. “I can no longer try. They didn’t ask if I would appeal. I will, but I think I already gave it my all.

A small crowd applauded Ms. Zhou, some shouting, “Keep going. “

Li Tingting, a gender equality activist in Beijing, said by phone that Ms. Zhou had been “an encouragement to many MeToo participants.” She added: “The impact of this case is more important than its outcome.”

But Ms. Zhou faces many hurdles in drawing authorities’ attention to her complaint against Mr. Zhu, especially in the increasingly cold political climate in China, where officials are wary of any complaints outside the channels. that they can strictly control.

His charges against Mr. Zhu burst onto the internet at a time when the Chinese government seemed surprised by the wave of complaints from women about sexual coercion by men. Many of the women who spoke were students or young professionals who said professors or supervisors pressured them into having sex. Initially, the Chinese media were able to broadcast women’s pent-up grievances about bad behavior that had been ignored by the authorities.

“People are not allowed to show their pain and injuries,” Ms. Zhou told The Times in an interview at the time. “A lot of women fear being seen as whiners.”

She said that while working as an intern at CCTV in 2014, she was asked to bear fruit in the dressing room of Mr. Zhu, one of the channel’s most famous presenters. Inside the room, Mr. Zhu forcefully kissed her and groped her, she said.

She remained largely silent on the experience until 2018, when the rise of the global ferment against sexual harassment also took hold in China, and she wrote a long story that spread across the internet after a of his friends shared it.

“It is important that every girl speaks up and says what she has suffered,” she wrote in the essay. “We have to make sure that society knows that these massacres exist. “

Mr. Zhu claimed that she fabricated her story to slander him. She then claimed that he had violated her dignity. “Let’s get ready to fight,” she wrote online.

Since then, the Chinese Communist Party has decided to curb public protests and disputes over women’s rights, and fewer such cases have surfaced on the Internet.

An exception came in July, when police arrested Kris Wu, a popular Chinese Canadian singer, after an 18-year-old college student in Beijing accused him of offering young women like her to help in their careers and then push them to have sex. . He denied the charges.

Mr. Wu was officially arrested last month on suspicion of rape. His case became one of many scandals that prompted the Chinese government to crack down on young celebrity culture and warn actors and performers to stick to official rules of decorum.

Ms. Zhou was kicked out of Weibo, the popular Chinese social media service where her allegations against Mr. Zhu first spread. (Her lawsuit against her has still not been tried.)

Mainstream state-run media have been ordered not to cover Ms. Zhou’s allegations and trial, according to three reporters who were instructed and requested anonymity due to the risk of repercussions. But news of Ms. Zhou’s loss in court spread on Chinese social media on Wednesday. Many reactions that remained on Weibo have criticized it, with some accusing it of having fabricated its claims and of serving as a pawn for forces hostile to China. Her supporters have said that despite the setback, she has set a lasting example.

“I was very disappointed, but it didn’t surprise me,” said Zheng Xi, 34, a feminist in Hangzhou, east China. “His perseverance over the past three years has educated and enlightened many people. “

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