A landmark sexual harassment case in China yesterday returned to court after an earlier ruling dealt a blow to the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement.
Zhou Xiaoxuan (周曉璇) stepped forward in 2018 to accuse state TV host Zhu Jun (朱軍) of forcibly kissing and groping her during her 2014 internship at the broadcaster.
While the case of Zhou, now 29, inspired many others to share their experiences of sexual assault publicly and sparked a social media storm, a court ruled last year there was insufficient evidence to back her allegation.
Zhou appealed, and returned to court for another hearing yesterday in Beijing.
“I still feel a little scared and dejected,” she said ahead of the hearing. “The process of the first trial was a deep secondary injury.”
Police cordoned off long stretches of pavement outside the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court ahead of her arrival, with officers logging the details of passersby.
Zhou said that her legal team would focus on getting access to more evidence, such as the police transcripts of interviews with her parents after she reported the incident — which were not included in the earlier trial.
They are also requesting access to surveillance video footage.
Zhou said Zhu was absent from earlier proceedings, and that while he had sued her for defamation, she was not aware of further developments in that case.
A small group of supporters came to wish Zhou luck before her hearing, holding signs that read: “#MeToo” and balloons that spelled jia you (加油, an expression of encouragement) in pinyin.
“Four years have passed, and the most important thing is that we have raised this question: When a woman encounters sexual harassment in a closed space, is her pain worth paying attention to?” Zhou said to supporters.
“There may be no answer today, but the most important thing is that we put this question here,” she said.
Zhou, also known by the pseudonym Xianzi (弦子), originally sued for a public apology from Zhu and 50,000 yuan (US$7,400) in damages.
Her first hearing in December 2020 drew a large crowd and a significant police presence in Beijing.
Reporters from foreign media outlets were dragged away by police while filming the scene.
“The process for my case has truly been too difficult,” Zhou said. “I worry that other victims fear standing up for their rights after seeing what I’ve experienced.”
“Perhaps the next victim that walks into court can receive more trust,” she added.
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