An intern took on one of China's biggest TV stars in a landmark #MeToo case. She lost, but vowed to fight on

Three years in the past, Zhou Xiaoxuan grew to become the face of China’s fledgling #MeToo motion when she took Zhu Jun, a distinguished host at state broadcaster CCTV, to courtroom, accusing him of groping and forcibly kissing her in a dressing room throughout her internship in 2014.

Sexual harassment lawsuits have been not often seen in China on the time, and Zhou’s case was extensively regarded a barometer for the nation’s progress on addressing entrenched gender inequality.

On Tuesday, that landmark authorized battle ended in Zhou’s defeat. A courtroom in Beijing ruled against her after a long-delayed second listening to, citing “insufficient evidence.”

Zhu, 57, is a former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a prime political advisory physique to the Chinese authorities. He is finest recognized for having hosted CCTV’s annual Lunar New Year gala — the most-watched TV present in China with extra 700 million viewers — for twenty years since 1997.

Zhu has circuitously commented on the case in public. He has denied all allegations by his lawyer and filed a separate lawsuit towards Zhou for defamation, in accordance to a statement from his lawyer in 2018.
The ruling is probably going to deal a additional blow to the nation’s struggling girls’s rights motion. Despite rising consciousness about gender equality, younger feminists in China face more and more stringent censorship, unrelenting state harassment and misogynist attack from online nationalists. Zhou’s account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was suspended in July for violating “Weibo complaint regulations.”

Emerging from the courthouse at about midnight after Tuesday’s closed-door listening to, which lasted about 10 hours, Zhou instructed dozens of supporters that she deliberate to attraction.

“I’ve exhausted all my efforts,” mentioned a tearful Zhou, additionally recognized by her nickname Xianzi. “I feel very regretful that I couldn’t give everyone a better result.”

“You did great! You’ve already done so much,” her supporters shouted in reply, in accordance to movies shared by individuals on the scene.

Zhou accused the courtroom of failing to guarantee procedural equity. She mentioned the choose had refused her repeated requests to retrieve corroborating proof, resembling safety digital camera footage exterior the dressing room.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, known also as Xianzi, stands with supporters outside a Beijing court on September 14.Zhou Xiaoxuan, known also as Xianzi, stands with supporters outside a Beijing court on September 14.
Zhou’s case is a actuality examine for China’s stifled #MeToo motion, which was just lately thrust again into the highlight following two explosive rape allegations involving a prime superstar and a tech large. Last month, Chinese-Candian pop star Kris Wu was formally arrested on suspicion of rape following on-line accusations. Police additionally detained an Alibaba supervisor over sexual assault allegations made by an worker, although prosecutors later dropped the case.
In each circumstances, authorities acted swiftly following public outcry, but the official narrative avoided any mention of the broader downside of deep-rooted gender inequality, and solid blame on overseas affect and the leisure trade as an alternative.

As Zhou’s long-running case illustrated, survivors of gender-based violence in China can face grueling authorized battles, despite the fact that the nation now has a new civil code defining what constitutes sexual harassment.

“Survivors in Xianzi’s position face near-insurmountable odds because courts give little credence to testimony and are looking for ‘smoking gun’ evidence,” mentioned Darius Longarino, a analysis scholar at Yale Law School who has labored extensively on China’s gender equality points.

“Zhu Jun is powerful, and it seems like outside political pressure was tipping the scales even further in his favor,” he mentioned.

Throughout Tuesday, the Beijing courtroom was carefully guarded by scores of uniformed law enforcement officials and plainclothes safety personnel, who cordoned off streets, checked individuals’s identification playing cards, stored a shut watch on the crowds and at one level snatched a protest signal from a supporter, in accordance to witnesses on the scene.

When Zhou appeared exterior the courtroom prior to the listening to — clutching a bouquet of flowers and a copy of China’s civil code in her fingers — she was ushered away by unidentified women and men earlier than she may end her speech.

As the listening to proceeded, one other battle was being waged on social media by censors. On Weibo, customers who shared pictures and movies of the scene exterior the courthouse and updates on Zhou’s case discovered their accounts suspended for a week or longer.

But many remained undeterred.

“Xianzi’s case has become a point of connection and hope for Chinese women…We won’t use the result to define our efforts in the past three years. It’s great comfort and encouragement to see more and more people sharing our path,” mentioned Ashley Xie, who waited exterior the courthouse in assist of Zhou all through the listening to.

“No matter how difficult it may be to speak up in the future, we will carry on. Once ignited, the sparks of #MeToo can never be extinguished.”

Lv Pin, a distinguished Chinese feminist now based mostly in New York, mentioned over the previous three years, Zhou’s case sparked public discussions and considerably raised social consciousness about sexual harassment. It additionally contributed to the expansion of China’s feminist group and uncovered the numerous flaws in the nation’s authorized system, she added.

“She did not win the case, but its significance and impact on civil society in the process is huge — and that won’t disappear just because of the outcome of the ruling,” she mentioned.

In the small hours on Wednesday, Zhou posted a assertion on Chinese social media app WeChat pledging to proceed her fight to her supporters on-line.

“There is no shame in failure. I’m honored to have stood with everyone in the past three years…It wasn’t an easy matter, but an extremely arduous and glorious journey,” she wrote. “Thanks everyone, I will definitely appeal.”

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