September 27, 2022

China’s leading #MeToo figure loses appeal in sexual harassment case against star TV host

4 min read

Zhou Xiaoxuan, better known as Xianzi in China, became the face of the country’s #MeToo movement in 2018 after she sexually assaulted CCTV host Zhu Jun in a dressing room four years ago when she was 21. Accused of teasing and kissing. – Old interns working on their show.

Zhou, who was 50 at the time of the alleged incident, denied the allegation and sued Zhou for defamation. He then retaliated, sparking a years-long legal battle that resulted in a settlement. A wider crackdown Online discussion of feminist activism and women’s rights by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Last September, a court in Beijing Decided against ChowCiting “insufficient evidence” in its response, it accused the court of failing to ensure procedural fairness. Chow said the judge had refused his repeated requests to retrieve corroborating evidence, such as security camera footage outside the dressing room.

On Wednesday, the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court rejected his appeal on similar grounds.

The court said on its official Weibo account, “The court held that the evidence submitted by the appellant Zhou was not sufficient to prove that Zhou had sexually harassed her, and that the appeal was not proved.” Can be done”.

Zhou Xiaoxuan was greeted by a small group of supporters on Wednesday before he returned to court for his trial of sexually harassing television host Zhu Jun.

Crackdown on feminist activism

Chinese media outlets initially covered Zhou’s case after the 2018 allegations and he has garnered widespread support on social media, gaining more than 300,000 followers on the microblogging site Weibo.

In recent years, however, young Chinese feminists have faced increasingly harsh censorship and abusive attacks from state actors and nationalist trolls.

Zoe’s Weibo account has been blocked for the past year — as have the accounts of many of her supporters.

Online trolls have accused Chow of lying and “collusion with foreign powers” — a stock Communist Party phrase often borrowed by nationalists from naysayers and academics opposed to the country’s zero-covid policy. Even health experts are used to condemn someone.

Outside the courthouse on Wednesday, police and plainclothes security agents cordoned off sidewalks to prevent Zhou’s supporters from gathering, with officers registering passers-by’s national identification numbers.

An intern takes on one of China's biggest TV stars in the #MeToo case.  She lost, but determined to fight.

A small group of supporters managed to greet Chow at a nearby playground, holding her bouquets and waving signs of encouragement. One of them wrote: “History and we are with you, Xianzi!”

Others expressed their solidarity online. Many people shared a seven-minute video Zhao recorded on Tuesday, in which he urged supporters not to despair.

He said that fighting is meaningful in itself. It will have a big impact on the society. “I have never regretted going ahead and enduring all this. I hope you all share my belief that every effort is worthwhile.”

But discussions about the case were heavily censored.

On Weibo, some of Zhao’s posts about the hearing were blocked, and Liang Xiaomin, a vocal Chinese feminist and public interest advocate in New York, said her WeChat account was permanently banned on Tuesday. went as she shared information about the case and expressed her support for Zhou.

“Many voices supporting Xianzi have been banned online, while his critics and trolls are as active as ever,” Liang said. “Many of his supporters are very upset — (our online community) was fractured and we don’t have a place to come together and create a unified voice.”

Legal challenges

When Zhou took the case to court in 2018, he sued Zhou for violating “personality rights” because China did not define sexual harassment as a legal crime.

Last year, China enacted a civil code defining sexual harassment for the first time in the country’s law.

The code states that a person can bring a civil claim against someone who sexually harasses them against their will “by verbal comments, written language, images, physical behavior or otherwise”.

Despite the introduction of the code, Liang said Zhou’s case illustrated that survivors of gender-based violence in China can still face tough legal battles. “This case is bloody proof of how the Chinese judicial system views victims of sexual harassment and those who are willing to come forward and take legal action,” he said.

Chinese feminists are being silenced by nationalist trolls.  Some are fighting back.

Legal experts who have studied sexual harassment cases in China say victims face almost insurmountable odds because courts give little credence to testimony and are always ‘smoking gun’ evidence. Looking for

“If I hadn’t started the case myself, I may never know the injustice that other victims of sexual assault will face when they go to court. [judicial] “We are still in an environment where we have to sacrifice our emotions, sacrifice our pain in exchange for understanding,” Zhao said in his video for supporters.

Leaving court after the hearing Wednesday evening, Zhou told supporters that this was likely the last legal effort she could make in the case.

“After the hearing, the judge told me that it’s been eight years since I called the police in 2014, and that I should have my life plan, but what I want to say is that my life plan is for myself. Dedication to the case. And hope for good results. Now I can’t take this project any further,” she said.

“The court system does not have inherent authority, nor is the court’s decision inherently true … I hope that the next litigant who walks into this courtroom will gain more understanding than others.”

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