In a significant blow to China’s #MeToo movement, a court in Beijing dismissed the landmark civil case of Zhou Xiaoxun on September 14, citing that “the evidence submitted was ‘insufficient’ to prove sexual harassment.”
Zhou, whose nickname is Xianzi, filed a high-profile lawsuit in 2018 against her former boss at China’s national broadcaster CCTV, Zhu Jun, over allegations of sexual harassment. The harassment involved unwanted groping and kissing and allegedly occurred in 2014, when Zhou was an intern on Zhu’s program.
The court’s rejection of Zhou’s claim is likely discouraging the country’s #MeToo supporters, though the rhetoric on the Chinese internet does little to reflect this.
It appears that voices of support for this #MeToo case have been largely censored and muted across Chinese social media channels, especially on the Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo. However, comments with a negative view of the accuser are among the most popular comments on relevant Weibo posts.
“But Zhu Jun’s career has already been damaged,” reads the most upvoted comment under the verdict announcement posted on Weibo by Beijing Haidian Court, conveying a sense of sympathy and pity for Zhu.
“No point in [Zhu Jun’s] win, [his] life has been destroyed, while Xianzi has gained so much [in comparison],” reads another popular comment under a related post published by one of China’s most prominent economy-focused newspapers, The Economic Observer.
“Feminism is [being] used as a tool against China,” reads one comment, seemingly referring to gender equality awareness as the work of foreign forces. Others share this view, one of whom writes, “[It’s] worth investigating the foreign forces behind it, don’t let her get away with it.”
“Those feminists are now quiet [following the court’s judgment],” writes another netizen, who is presumably unaware of the muzzling efforts being carried out by Weibo.
Remarks supportive of Zhou are rare on Weibo, presumably due to the platform’s censorship efforts. “The comment section is disgusting; thanks for your hard work, Xianzi and friends,” writes one backer.
Some accounts posting in support of Zhou have allegedly been suspended. Screenshots online also show that Zhou’s Weibo account was silenced in early July for unknown reasons.
In a written statement circulating on the internet, Zhou has vowed to appeal the court’s decision. “[The] loss is not a shame; I am honored to have stood with everyone and felt together over the past three years. It was not easy, but rather difficult and glorious, to get to the second hearing and lose the lawsuit,” she writes.
“Thanks, everyone, [I will] appeal for sure,” says Zhou at the end of the statement.
The court’s verdict comes roughly a week after a court in China’s Shandong province dropped a case against a former employee of tech giant Alibaba who was accused of rape.
Cover image: Zhou talking to supporters before the court session on September 14. Screenshot via Weibo
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