As several public figures in China find themselves at the center of sexual assault scandals, the country’s Me Too movement appears to be experiencing a tremendous resurgence.
Chinese social media was flooded with posts and commentary on the topic of sexual misconduct on Wednesday, prompted by bombshell accusations against a string of well-known personalities and journalists, including veteran journalist Zhang Wen and CCTV Spring Festival Gala host Zhu Jun. 没有同意就是性侵 (No consent means sexual assault) began trending across platforms including Weibo and WeChat.
Zhu was accused of sexual harassment by a former intern on his show “Artistic Life” in 2014. The intern, who remains anonymous, wrote about the incident with the well-known host in a recent social media post. She claimed that she wanted to interview Zhu for her internship program and that, while they were in his dressing room, he molested her, according to her post, which was seen by HuffPost.
The day after the incident, she allegedly reported the harassment to the police. While law enforcement took down her information, she said, further action was never taken. Days later, she paid another visit to the police station, inquiring about the case and two officers tried to dissuade her from escalating the case.
On Friday, Caixin, a Beijing-based business and finance outlet, ran a story on the intern’s experience with Zhu. Hours later, the article was taken down without explanation. Zhu has yet to respond to the allegation.
Zhang, however, has released multiple statements following several accusations of sexual assault that surfaced this week. The journalist was accused of raping a legal professional after a banquet in May. Soon after that accusation surfaced, fellow journalists Jiang Fanzhou and Yi Xiaohe reported similar experiences with Zhang. Zhang denied raping the accuser, insisting instead that the affair was consensual. He also brought up the dating histories of the two journalists as some sort of justification for his conduct, pointing out that one was single and the other divorced.
Zhang’s response spurred immense backlash on social media, with many criticizing him for “slut-shaming.” The discussion also fueled the overall Me Too conversation. Portrait, a Chinese magazine, collected 1,700 responses regarding experiences with sexual misconduct within 24 hours of its call-out. And social media feeds were filled with posts that condemned the accused and uplifted the victims. By Thursday it appeared that several posts on the subject had been taken down by government censors.
While many have touted the lively discussion and debate around sexual harassment as a sign the Me Too movement has finally taken hold in China, some are skeptical of its influence. Investigative journalist Wang Zhi’an doubted the accused would be brought to justice. He criticized how sexual assault cases are usually treated in China because of the shame that’s typically attached to the victims along with many citizens’ lack of legal knowledge.
“Without the support of legal systems and without proper punishment ― even though the victims have come out ― this movement won’t go anywhere,” he wrote on his Weibo account, according to a HuffPost translation.
In the past, the Me Too movement in China had difficulty gaining momentum. Luo Xixi, a former student at Beihang University, largely kicked off the discussion over sexual misconduct in January after she shared an online essay in which she described being sexually assaulted by professor Chen Xiaowu. The university fired the educator after an internal investigation, but no legal action was taken against him.
Government censors swiftly obscured the issue, and feminists have had to resort to covert acts of resistance, even using the phrase “rice bunny” (米兔), pronounced as “mi tu,” to express their thoughts on social media.
John Zhou helped with translations for this post.