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China #MeToo: Hearing begins for landmark sexual harassment case against TV host

Zhou Xiaoxuan, 27, sparked a storm on social media in 2018 when she accused television host Zhu Jun of forcibly kissing and groping her while she was working at state broadcaster CCTV as an intern.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 2, 2020 5:27:46 pm
In 2018, Xiaoxuan decided to share her traumatic experience on the popular Chinese social networking site WeChat. (Photograph: AP)

A Chinese court on Wednesday is hearing a landmark sexual harassment case against one of the country’s most powerful TV hosts, nearly six years after the incident took place.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, 27, sparked a storm on social media in 2018 when she accused television host Zhu Jun of forcibly kissing and groping her while she was working at state broadcaster CCTV as an intern.

Denying all wrongdoing, Zhu Jun filed a defamation suit against her for damaging his reputation and mental well being, BBC reported. “I’m very nervous,” Xiaoxuan told AFP, hours ahead of the hearing. “But whether we win or lose the case, it has meaning.”

Read| From chatroom to courtroom: China’s #MeToo movement takes legal turn

A large crowd gathered outside the Haidian people’s court ahead of the hearing, carrying posters with ‘#MeToo’ plastered across them. According to reports by local media, the police tried to convince the group to disperse and even appeared to forcibly remove at least one foreign journalist covering the hearing, The Guardian reported.

In 2018, inspired by the slew of women who took to social media to accuse now-beleaguered American producer Harvey Weinstein of rape and sexual misconduct, Xiaoxuan, too, decided to share her experience on the popular Chinese social networking site WeChat.

Read| Asian entertainment industries grappling with #MeToo issues

Xiaoxuan’s 3,000 word personal essay quickly went viral on social media after her friend, an NGO worker named Xu Cha, shared it on her Weibo account, BBC reported. She said that when she complained to the police and tried to report the case, she was told that her allegations would ruin the reputation would ruin the reputation of the state broadcaster and hurt the feelings of Zhu Jun’s fans.

While China’s first-ever civil code, which was passed earlier this year, expanded the legal definition of sexual harassment, women are still reluctant to come forward and it is also rare for these cases to reach court. “I hope my case will help progress China’s legal system,” Zhou told AFP.

“These [experiences] make you feel like your existence is very insignificant,” she told AFP. “Even if I had to experience this all over again, I don’t regret it. I think all of this is still meaningful.”

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