Analysis: The face of China’s #MeToo movement loses her legal battle, but vows to appeal

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Three years ago, Zhou Xiaoxuan became the face of China’s fledgling #MeToo movement when she, Zhu Jun, a prominent host on state broadcaster CCTV, took her to court, traced her and forced her into a dressing room during her internship in 2014. accused of kissing.

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Sexual harassment lawsuits were rarely seen in China at the time, and Zhou’s case was widely considered a barometer for the country’s progress on addressing gender inequality.

On Tuesday, that historic legal battle ended in Zhou’s defeat. a court in beijing ruled against After a long delayed second hearing, citing “insufficient evidence”.

Zhu, 57, is a former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a top political advisory body to the Chinese government. He is best known for hosting CCTV’s annual Lunar New Year gala – the most-watched TV show in China with over 700 million viewers – for two decades since 1997.

Zhu has not publicly commented on the matter directly. He has denied all allegations through his lawyer and filed a separate lawsuit against Zhou for defamation. Statement From my lawyer in 2018.
This decision is likely to deal another blow to the country’s struggling women’s rights movement. Despite growing awareness of gender equality, young feminists in China are facing increasingly stringent censorship. misogynistic attacks from online nationalists. Zhou’s account on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo was suspended in July for violating “Weibo complaint rules”.

Leaving the courthouse at midnight on Tuesday after an in-camera hearing that lasted nearly 10 hours, Zhou told dozens of supporters that she was planning to appeal.

“I have exhausted all my efforts,” said a tearful Zhou, also known by his nickname, Jianzhi. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t give everyone better results.”

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According to videos shared by people at the scene, “You’ve done great! You’ve already done so much,” his supporters shouted in response.

Zhou accused the court of failing to ensure procedural fairness. She said the judge had denied her repeated requests to retrieve verifiable evidence, such as footage of security cameras outside the dressing room.

Zhou’s case is a reality check for China’s #MeToo movement, which recently hit headlines following two explosive rape allegations involving a top celebrity and a tech giant. Last month was Chinese-Canadian pop star Chris Wu formally arrested Police also detained an Alibaba manager on suspicion of rape after online allegations sexual harassment allegations made by an employee, although the prosecutor later case dropped.
In both cases, officials acted swiftly after public outcry, but the official narrative refrained from mentioning The wider problem of deep-rooted gender inequality, and instead blamed foreign influence and the entertainment industry.

As shown in Zhou’s long-running case, survivors of gender-based violence in China could face fierce legal battles, even though the country now has a new civil code that defines how What is sexual harassment?

“The survivors in Jianzi’s situation face almost insurmountable odds as courts give little testimony and are looking for ‘smoking gun’ evidence,” said Darius Longarino, a research scholar at Yale Law School.

“Zhu Jun is powerful, and it seemed that external political pressure was moving even more in his favor,” he said.

Throughout Tuesday, the Beijing Court was closely guarded by uniformed police officers and plain-clothes security personnel who cordoned off the streets, checked people’s identity cards, kept a close eye on the crowd and at one point asked a supporter. took away the sign of protest. Witnesses present on the spot.

When Zhou appeared outside the courtroom before the hearing – holding a bouquet of flowers and a copy of China’s civil code in her hands – she was taken away by unidentified men and women before ending her speech.

As the hearing progressed, another battle was being waged on social media by the censors. On Weibo, accounts of users who shared photos and videos of the scene outside the courthouse and updated on Zhou’s case were suspended for a week or more.

But many remained adamant.

“Xianzi’s case has become a point of connection and hope for Chinese women… We will not use the outcome to define our efforts over the past three years. It’s great to see more and more people sharing our paths.” There’s comfort and encouragement.” said Ashley Xie, who waited outside the courthouse to support Zhou throughout the hearing.

“No matter how difficult it is to speak in the future, we will move on. Once ignited, the spark of #MeToo can never be extinguished.”

LV Pin, a prominent Chinese feminist based in New York, said that over the past three years, Zhou’s case has sparked public discussions and significantly raised social awareness of sexual assault. She said it also contributed to the development of China’s feminist community and exposed many flaws in the country’s legal system.

“It didn’t win the case, but its importance and impact on civil society in the process is enormous — and it won’t just disappear because of the outcome of the verdict,” she said.

In the short hours on Wednesday, Zhou posted a statement on the Chinese social media app WeChat promising his supporters to continue fighting online.

She wrote, “There is no shame in failure. I am honored to have stood by everyone in the last three years. It was not an easy affair, but an extremely difficult and wonderful journey.” “Thanks everyone, I will definitely appeal.”


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