Beijing Diary

Why China's #MeToo movement is here to stay

Country’s most prominent television personalities and public figures are now in the eye of the storm.

 |  Beijing Diary  |  3-minute read |   01-08-2018
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The #MeToo movement has appeared to have finally come to China, and some of the country’s most prominent television personalities and public figures are now in the eye of the storm. This despite the one-party state’s censorship apparatus working in overdrive and state media limiting any discussion of the incidents that are now the topic of discussion in Chinese social media.

When the #MeToo reckoning swept many parts of the world, it did also have an impact in China as well, where many students said they were inspired to come out and detail the widespread assault in university campuses. This was initially limited to college campuses. The debate in China was sparked by a student at Beijing’s Beihang University naming a well-known professor, Chen Xiaowu, and accusing him of sexual assault.

After her open letter was spread on Chinese social media, he was removed. Several other universities have now been swept up in the movement, and students say instances of their advisers taking advantage of their powerful positions are widespread. This month, a teacher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou was finally removed after two complaints by students. After one complaint in April, the university merely warned him. Another student came forward in May, pushing the university into action.

A slow response by authorities has characterised many of these cases. In one case, justice took 20 years, when a professor in Shanghai, Shen Yang, was dismissed in April after he was accused of raping one of his students 20 years ago in Peking University.


Now, signs are the movement is spreading beyond campuses. The most high-profile case this week was the widely famous television host Zhu Jun, who is a household name in China as a regular figure on China Central Television, the powerful state broadcaster.

An open letter by a former intern was posted on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter equivalent, and quickly went viral. The damning letter recalled how when she was an intern, she was told to bring fruit to Zhu in his dressing room. He told her how powerful he was, and began molesting her. When a guest entered the room, Zhu stopped. When the intern reported it, she was told to drop the charges because of his “positive image” in China. “Zhu Jun” was promptly trending on Weibo, though censors had appeared to delete the original post.

The latest cases are that of Feng Yongfeng, a well-known environmentalist who has now been accused of sexually assaulting many of the activists he worked with, and Lei Chuang, a prominent anti-discrimination activist who was accused of raping a volunteer at his charity, the South China Morning Post reported. Well-known writer Chun Sue also revealed she had been sexually assaulted by another prominent writer and media personality. “I hope the #MeToo campaign in China keeps on burning,” she wrote on social media.

Whether powerful figures in media and film, two industries where there are widespread perceptions of harassment, will face a reckoning still remains to be seen, especially given the clampdown on information that followed the latest revelations in China.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Tackling a Fantastic Beast — The storm over Johnny Depp in the new film


Ananth Krishnan Ananth Krishnan @ananthkrishnan

The writer is China correspondent for India Today.

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