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    Shenzhen Court Favors Professor Accused in Sexual Assault Case

    A professor at Wesleyan University in the U.S. has been ordered to pay over $14,000 in damages to a Chinese-American academic he publicly accused of sexual misconduct.

    A professor who accused a Chinese-American academic of sexual assault in the United States wrote in a social media post Wednesday that he will appeal a court’s ruling that he defamed the plaintiff.

    A court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen ordered Wang Ao, a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, to pay Xu Gang, a former professor of East Asian studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 100,000 yuan ($14,200) in compensation for “psychological damage,” according to the court’s verdict handed down Oct. 23.

    The accused, who also goes by the name Gary Xu, filed a defamation lawsuit with the court in June of last year — it is unclear why he filed the case in Shenzhen — after Wang had publicly accused him of sexually assaulting female students at UIUC.

    Speaking to Sixth Tone on Thursday, Wan Miaoyan, the lawyer representing Wang, called the verdict a “cover-up for the perpetrator.” Neither Xu nor his lawyers could be reached for comment.

    In March of last year, one of Xu’s former students told Sixth Tone that the professor had forced her into unwanted sexual behavior. She said that several sexual misconduct cases involving Xu, including hers, were reported to the university beginning in 2015. UIUC conducted an internal investigation the following year and determined that Xu had had a sexual relationship with a student in violation of school policy.

    Following the school’s investigation, Xu was put on paid leave until he resigned in August 2018, according to ProPublica, a U.S. nonprofit for investigative journalism. The month after he resigned, Wang and two of Xu’s former students filed a formal complaint against Xu at an Illinois court. Despite being obliged to respond to the complaint, Xu has not filed a motion to dismiss it.

    The Shenzhen court upheld Xu’s defamation claim last week, saying there was no evidence to support the accusations against him, nor was there confirmation of the accusations from Xu’s former employer or a legal authority. The court further said that in rendering its verdict, it had not considered the university’s 2016 investigation or a letter from UIUC’s East Asian Languages and Cultures Department supporting the investigation because the documents “were not translated (from English to Chinese) by authorized translation services.”

    China’s civil procedure law stipulates that foreign-language documents used as evidence in domestic courts must be accompanied by a Chinese translation. It does not say that such translations must come from “authorized translation services.”

    The court also dismissed testimony from Ann Olivarius, the lawyer representing Xu’s former students in the U.S., on the grounds that it was not notarized by the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom, where it was given. However, Wang’s lawyer said the defense had in fact submitted the embassy’s notarization certificate: She showed Sixth Tone a photo of the certificate she posted on social media.

    At a time when several sexual misconduct defamation cases are still awaiting trial in China — some involving influential and powerful plaintiffs — the Shenzhen court’s verdict could have broader implications, Wan said.

    “One foul sentence doth more hurt than many foul examples,” said the lawyer, quoting the English philosopher Francis Bacon. “For these do but corrupt the stream, (while) the other corrupteth the fountain.”

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: A portrait of Xu Gang, an academic who resigned from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign after being accused of sexual assault. From 深圳艺术双年展 on WeChat)