Chinese court rules against woman in major #MeToo case

BEIJING – A Beijing court ruled late Tuesday against the plaintiff in a high-profile Chinese sexual harassment case, saying there was insufficient evidence to support their claims, a decision that would likely deal a blow to China’s #MeToo movement .

Zhou Xiaoxuan, 28, in a series of social media posts in 2018 accused television personality Zhu Jun at the state broadcaster CCTV of groping and forcibly kissing her while she was interning for him in 2014, allegations he denies.

Zhou’s allegation quickly went viral, and she sued Zhu for damages three years ago, although the first closed-door hearing on the case didn’t take place until December 2020. The second hearing on Tuesday also took place behind closed doors.

The Haidian People’s Court said in a ruling that identified Zhou and Zhu by only their last names, the evidence presented was “insufficient” to prove sexual harassment.

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It was unclear whether Zhu was present in court on Tuesday. A lawyer for Zhu could not be reached.

Zhou told a small group of supporters after the court’s decision that after three years of pursuing her case, they felt “exhausted” and “disappointed” when they heard the verdict. In her view, she said, she was not given an opportunity to provide an adequate report on what had happened.

“I don’t know if I have the courage to stick with it for another three years, so I don’t know if it will be a farewell this time.”

However, in a later statement, Zhou said her team would appeal the verdict.

“We will definitely appeal, because in this case we did not look at any key facts, that is, all the surveillance videos.”

China’s #MeToo movement started in 2018 when a college student in Beijing publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment. It spread to NGOs, media and other industries.

Discussion on #MeToo was then stifled, but recent widespread coverage in China of sexual assault scandals involving tech giant Alibaba and celebrity Kris Wu has revived the issue with no apparent censorship.

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