Chinese court rejects harassment claim by #MeToo figurehead
A Chinese woman, whose sexual harassment case against a popular TV host prompted a nation-wide #MeToo debate, has vowed to appeal after a Beijing court ruled against her.
The Haidian people’s court said in a judgment released late yesterday that Zhou Xiaoxuan – who had become the face of China’s #MeToo movement – did not meet the standard of proof in claiming that Zhu Jun, her superior at her place of work, sexually harassed her.
Zhou, known as Xianzi, had filed a lawsuit against the prominent CCTV host Zhu, accusing him of groping and forcibly kissing her in 2014 when she was an intern. Zhou first went public with her accusations in 2018 in a 3,000-word social media post.
“Failure is not shameful, and I am honoured to have stood with you together in the past three years,” Zhou wrote on her social media account WeChat after the court’s decision. “Thank you, everyone, I will definitely appeal.”
In the long post Zhou listed seven instances in which she implied that the court was unfair to her, and said that she and her lawyers were deprived of the opportunity to fully put their case forward. Earlier yesterday she was shoved by antagonistic bystanders as she headed to court for the second hearing of the civil case, which had been cancelled on its originally scheduled date in May. “I’m very thankful for everyone, whether we win or lose, I’m very honoured to have experienced these last three years,” Zhou said outside court.
One woman yelled “pandemic safety”, trying to stop Zhou speaking, while a man questioned whether it was appropriate for her to speak alone. But many were there in support. “I think having one more person is a form of support, and form of power,” said Sophie Zhou.
Zhou had asked for a public apology from Zhu as well as 50,000 yuan (£5,600) in damages. Zhu denies the accusations and has launched defamation proceedings. Zhou’s civil case sat with the court for years until it agreed to hear it in December 2020. When she filed the suit in 2018 such complaints were treated as labour disputes, and Zhou’s was termed a “personality rights dispute”. A court rejected a request to have it shifted to a provision explicitly citing sexual harassment after large-scale reforms to the country’s civil code in 2020.
A series of sexual assault accusations in recent weeks has refocused attention on the movement. The most prominent was a claim of sexual assault made by an Alibaba employee against her manager, but last week prosecutors determined no crime had been committed. Kris Wu, a Chinese-Canadian singer, was also arrested, in Beijing, on suspicion of rape. He has denied various allegations.