A Beijing court ruled Tuesday against a Chinese woman in a #MeToo case that went through the courts for three years, in a blow to the repressed movement whose legacy remains uncertain.
The Haidian People’s Court said in a ruling issued Tuesday night that Zhou Xiaoxuan, who had become the face of the country’s #MeToo movement, failed to meet the burden of proof by stating that Zhu Jun, his superior in her workplace, sexually harassed her.
Zhou was a former intern at the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV and went public with the allegations against Zhu, a prominent CCTV host, in 2018 when dozens of women began to speak out about their past experiences of harassment or assault. Since then, authorities have largely shut down the movement, as activists found their online posts censored and faced pressure from authorities when attempting to hold protests, but Zhou has continued to speak out.
“I am very grateful to everyone, whether we win or lose, I am very honored to have experienced these past three years,” Zhou told reporters outside the court Tuesday afternoon as unidentified men and women approached. and they tried to push her along.
A woman yelled “pandemic security”, trying to prevent Zhou from speaking, while a man asked her if it was appropriate for her to speak alone.
A woman who tried to hold up a sign that read “Together” was quickly rounded up by police and the sign was ripped from her hand. He later said that the police asked him for his national identification number.
Zhou filed the lawsuit against Zhu to counter a lawsuit he had already filed against her. She accused him of forcibly groping and kissing her in 2014 and asked for a public apology, as well as 50,000 yuan (6,575 euros) in damages. Zhu has denied the claims.
While the movement no longer has protests or lawyers and others helping victims take legal action, some people continue to push for justice for victims of sexual violence, even if they don’t cite the #MeToo hashtag.
A series of allegations of sexual assault and rape in recent weeks has attracted national attention. The most prominent was an accusation of sexual assault made by an Alibaba employee against two men. Chinese-Canadian singer Kris Wu was also arrested in Beijing on suspicion of rape over allegations made online.
In August, allegations posted online by victims separately led to the arrest of a math teacher on charges of forcible sexual abuse and the firing of a popular television host on Hunan Television. Shanghai police, who initially refused to press charges in the latest case, have said they have reopened the investigation.
“These incidents are part of #MeToo, without a doubt,” said Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, an online publication that was closed due to censorship in 2018. “Without #MeToo, it is impossible to imagine this kind of thing 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 passed in 2020 that organized civil laws and promised certain rights to citizens.
Still, victims of sexual violence face legal and social obstacles in seeking justice.
“The message is quite strong … and it tells people that this is going to change things,” said Darius Longarino, an academic researcher at Yale Law School, of the legal reforms. “But on the ground, in the current system, there are still a lot of obstacles.”
In a recent report, Longarino and his colleagues found only 83 civil cases in public databases related to sexual harassment or sexual abuse between 2018 and 2020. Of the 83 cases, 77 were filed by the alleged harasser against the companies or the victim. Only six cases were brought by the victims against a stalker.
Zhou’s case stayed 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 the day by the court.
A few dozen supporters came to support Zhou on Tuesday, although many kept their distance due to the large number of police officers. Many policemen were dressed in civilian clothes and were filming in the street.
“I think having one more person is a form of support and a form of power,” said Sophie Zhou, who said she stayed away from court when she saw police asking for identification numbers.
Throughout, Zhou has pushed for the court hearing to be a matter of public record and requested the court order to appear for Zhu Jun, citing basic legal procedures.
When he filed the lawsuit in 2018, such complaints were treated as labor disputes or under other laws not directly related to sexual harassment. Zhou’s was called a “dispute over personality rights.”
The court rejected a request by her attorneys for her case to be heard under a statutory provision enacted after she filed the lawsuit that explicitly cites sexual harassment.
“I believe that justice in these basic procedures is a necessary path to obtain a fair result, and all the efforts we made before the hearing are not only for victory, but for fundamental justice,” Zhou wrote on his WeChat social networks. . count on monday.