Sat, Jan 13, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Beijing academic axed over claims

Reuters, BEIJING

A professor in China accused of sexually harassing students under his supervision has been removed from teaching posts by a top Beijing university, in a case that has sparked national media coverage and a nascent #MeToo movement in the country.

Beihang University on Thursday said in a statement on Weibo that an investigation found the professor, Chen Xiaowu (陳小武), had engaged in “sexual harassment behavior” that seriously violated professional ethics and the university’s code of conduct.

The Beijing Youth Daily had previously quoted Chen as saying that he had done “nothing illegal,” but Reuters was unable to reach him for comment, as the university declined to provide his telephone number and said he was refusing interviews.

The university’s investigation was launched after former Beihang student Luo Xixi (羅茜茜) publicly accused Chen of sexually harassing her 13 years ago in an online blog post that promptly went viral after it was posted on Jan. 1.

In the post, Luo said Chen made an unwanted sexual advance after luring her to his sister’s house, and that he only relented after she burst into tears and said she was a virgin.

Luo also accused Chen of harassing several other students.

Luo, who now lives in the US, said she was inspired by the #MeToo social media movement that started in October last year in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations in the US entertainment industry, and encouraged others to come forward and share their own experiences under the hashtag.

Luo’s allegations, combined with another public post from a Peking University graduate, have inspired students from more than 50 universities to issue open letters demanding more effective oversight and a reporting system to deal with sexual harassment on their campuses.

However, unlike #MeToo in the US, the campaign has mostly been spread by word of mouth and has struggled to gain traction on social media, in part because Chinese Internet censors have been swift to take down the open letters.

Instances of campus sexual harassment have surfaced regularly in recent years, but are usually reported in China’s state-run media as isolated cases rather than part of a wider systemic problem.

In its statement, Beihang said Chen was removed as vice president of the university’s graduate school and that his credentials as a teacher and post-graduate supervisor were revoked.

The response from Beihang was clear and swift and represented progress, women’s rights activist Zhang Leilei (張累累) said.

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