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    Bali Sexual Assault Raises Liability Question for Travel Agents

    A 29-year-old Indonesian man has reportedly confessed to sexually assaulting a Chinese woman whose tour guide had recommended the man’s employer to take her on a water scooter.

    The alleged sexual assault of a Chinese tourist during an organized trip to the Indonesian island of Bali has raised a big question back home: Should the travel agency she used assume any liability for the incident?

    The unidentified woman was traveling with her family last month on a five-day trip organized by Nanhu Travel, a tour operator based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, when the alleged incident occurred, according to Shenzhen News Network. The 20-year-old had signed up for a water scootering lesson with her mother, during which her instructor allegedly took her to a remote island and “forced her to touch him,” the young woman’s father told the media outlet.

    In a statement Friday, the Chinese Consulate in the Balinese city of Denpasar said that local police had arrested the 29-year-old suspect and that he had confessed to the crime. The consulate also said that the man will stand trial and be prosecuted according to local laws.

    As more Chinese travel abroad, tour operators and insurance companies are introducing schemes that cover everything from hospital visits to reimbursements for flight delays and accidents. The alleged incident in Bali, though, has prompted netizens to debate whether tour operators should bear any liability for offenses such as sexual assault. Under a hashtag about the topic on microblogging platform Weibo — which had received over 95 million views by Sunday evening — opinions remain divided.

    “If you can’t even guarantee the safety of your tour members, how can you operate a travel agency?” one Weibo user commented below a media post about the story. “No one can guarantee what happens when you’re out traveling,” another user commented under a separate post. “Moreover, this is an unexpected incident.”

    In a report published Saturday by The Beijing News, a spokesperson for Nanhu Travel said that, although water scootering wasn’t included in the Bali tour itinerary, the company had recommended the instructor’s employer to the woman upon request.

    A customer service representative for the travel agency told Sixth Tone on Sunday that the company is “assisting the family” and working with local police to ensure that the instructor is prosecuted.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Chinese tourists wait at a dock in Bali, Indonesia, Sept. 30. 2017. Mei Guojian/IC)