Six years after the alleged incident, a Chinese courtroom on Wednesday is listening to a landmark case that analysts say may outline the way forward for the nation’s #MeToo motion.
Zhou Xiaoxuan – additionally recognized on-line by her nickname Xianzi – has taken one of many nation’s most distinguished TV hosts to courtroom, accusing him of sexually harassing her in 2014.
He denies all wrongdoing and has in flip sued her and her supporter for damaging his popularity in addition to psychological wellbeing.
It is uncommon in China for such instances to even get to this stage and the stakes are excessive, analysts say.
Ahead of the listening to, which won’t be public, Xianzi instructed the BBC that no matter occurs, she can have no regrets. “If I win, this will encourage many women to come forward and tell their stories; if I lose, I’ll keep appealing until justice is served.”
About 100 folks gathered exterior the Haidian District Court in Beijing on Wednesday to indicate their help for Xianzi. Many have been carrying posters with the phrase #Metoo on them. “We wait with you for an answer from history,” one other signal learn.
The gathering was largely peaceable, although there have been scuffles as police tried to clear the protesters and dragged away overseas reporters, in keeping with the AFP information company.
In the summer time of 2018, shortly after Xianzi realized concerning the slew of authorized instances towards Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein, she determined to jot down down her personal expertise in Chinese on her WeChat account – partially to indicate solidarity to a childhood buddy, who as soon as instructed her that she was a survivor of rape.
In the three,000-word essay, the then 25-year-old recalled a 2014 expertise the place she alleged that whereas interning at China’s state broadcaster CCTV that yr, one of many nation’s most high-profile TV hosts Zhu Jun sexually harassed her. Xianzi alleged that she did complain to the native police, however claims they instructed her to drop the accusation as a result of Mr Zhu was a distinguished TV host and his “positive impact” on society ought to make her suppose twice.
Xianzi’s writing quickly grew to become a viral put up on the Chinese web after her buddy, an NGO employee named Xu Chao, reposted it on her public Weibo account. By then, the time period “sexual harassment” had change into part of the Chinese media discourse because of the #MeToo motion within the United States and Europe, and a small variety of profitable complaints in China.
In January that yr, a Beijing college fired a professor accused of sexually harassing a former pupil. A couple of months later, a widely known charity founder stepped down from his position after being accused of raping a volunteer throughout a fundraising occasion again in 2015.
Chinese media shops quickly took an incredible curiosity in Xianzi’s criticism, as the person she accused is a family identify within the nation. Many ladies – in addition to males – expressed disbelief and confirmed solidarity on-line. But Xianzi claimed that, in a short time, she was instructed that censors had banned media reporting of the alleged incident.
A couple of weeks later, Xianzi and Xu Chao have been sued by Mr Zhu for damaging his popularity and psychological wellbeing. Ironically, it was solely then that the story actually captured the widespread consideration of Chinese media. Paparazzi wished photographs and Xianzi stated 1000’s of survivors of sexual harassment – each men and women – have been in contact by way of social media since then.
Xianzi instructed the BBC forward of Wednesday’s courtroom listening to: “It has brought me much harm. At one point, I was accused by the alleged perpetrator that I have a delusional disorder, and I had to prove that I am a normal person.
“And within the technique of accumulating proof that dates again to 2014, I needed to re-live my expertise time and again. And every time was a torture and humiliation.”
Xu Chao is now studying in England. She told the BBC that if the court rules in favour of Mr Zhu, that would mean that his suit against both women would continue. “But I’m getting ready to struggle the fees – even remotely.”
Mr Zhu has consistently denied all the allegations. The BBC’s requests to interview Mr Zhu and his lawyers ahead of the hearing went unanswered.
‘Still no apology’
Chinese law bans workplace sexual misconduct. But until recently, there has been no legal definition of what constitutes sexual harassment, said Darius Longarino, who studies China’s changing legal framework in dealing with such cases at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Centre.
“To date, there have solely been a small variety of sexual-harassment-related instances which have gone to Chinese courts. And usually what you see is that if a office has punished the alleged perpetrator, the alleged perpetrator would then sue the corporate for violating their labour contract.
“Or the alleged perpetrator would sue the firm or the complainant for damaging their reputation,” Mr Longarino instructed the BBC.
In truth, the time period “sexual harassment” solely began to seem in 2005 in a nationwide legislation on defending ladies’s pursuits. Since then, there was a trickle of native and provincial rules emphasising the enforcement of it, however little has modified at floor degree, stated Mr Longarino.
According to the Beijing Yuanzhong Gender Development Centre, a neighborhood NGO, among the many greater than 50 million publicly-available Chinese courtroom verdicts between 2010 and 2017, solely 34 have been associated to sexual harassment. Of these, simply two have been introduced by victims suing alleged harassers – and each have been dismissed ultimately on the grounds of “lacking evidence”.
There are indicators that issues are altering, nevertheless. In one other high-profile case final yr, a social employee sued the director-general of a non-profit organisation in southwest China’s Sichuan province and received. Chinese media known as it the primary authorized victory because the begin of the #MeToo motion in China.
But though the courtroom ordered the perpetrator to situation an apology inside 15 days, the sufferer has but to obtain it greater than a yr after her win, in keeping with a Chinese information report in July.
In May, Chinese lawmakers launched a brand new Civil Code, to come back into impact on 1 January, 2021. It clarifies the definition of sexual harassment as what’s “carried out against the will of another by means such as speech, text, images, or physical conduct”. It additionally says that authorities, corporations and faculties ought to make an effort to cease such behaviour.
Critics argue that that is nonetheless not ample in successfully defending victims of sexual harassment. “It went as far as saying that companies have to adopt measures to tackle workplace sexual harassment, but stopped short of saying what liability would companies face for failing to do so,” stated Mr Longarino.
According to a 2018 survey of greater than 100 respondents from developed coastal cities, 81% of their corporations didn’t have anti-sexual harassment insurance policies on the books, whereas one other 12% did, however didn’t implement them. Only 7% of respondents, in keeping with this ballot, stated their corporations operated such a coverage.
But regardless of the shortcomings, Mr Longarino stated that the truth that Xianzi’s case has gone this far is an encouraging signal that issues are altering. “Now is another pivotal moment where we will see if courts can give a fair and rigorous hearing.
“Only then will the legislation present significant safety to sexual harassment survivors.”
Additional reporting by the BBC’s Yitsing Wang