Update: On July 31, Zhejiang University said after “new clues” emerged online that Nu had allegedly cheated on his exams, a follow-up investigation confirmed multiple school code violations, resulting in a decision to cancel Nu’s student status.
A university in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou is at the center of controversy after a student convicted of rape was only given probation and allowed to continue his studies, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Tuesday.
The student from Zhejiang University, surnamed Nu, had received an 18-month suspended sentence in April for raping an intoxicated woman, according to the media report. A Hangzhou court is said to have given the “lenient sentence” because Nu stopped during the act for fear of punishment, and later turned himself in to the police.
Following the court’s verdict, Zhejiang University in June put the student on probation for 12 months, according to The Paper.
On Monday, Nu’s case became the subject of public scrutiny after screenshots of the school’s decision, as well as some of his social media posts, were shared online. According to the posts, Nu had landed a job at a real estate company, and was traveling and attending social events.
Many online said they were angry about the school’s decision not to expel a student convicted of rape. A related hashtag on microblogging site Weibo had been viewed more than 97 million times by Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Zhejiang University said its decision involving Nu was consistent with its guidelines on student conduct. The school added that it would organize a follow-up investigation in light of the public outcry.
However, rather than putting out the fire, the university’s statement only sparked more online backlash.
A Zhejiang University student who spoke to Sixth Tone on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the school said she believes the official response to the case was “perfunctory.”
“Zhejiang University clearly shows no determination to punish the student and protect the victims,” the student said. “This frustrates me and makes me feel very unsafe as a woman on campus.”
The student added that even after Nu’s conviction, he had shared posts on the school’s internal online discussion forum, openly inviting fellow students to nightclubs and bars — behavior she called “disgusting.”
This is not the first time Zhejiang University has been mired in controversy for its handling of student misconduct. In July 2018, a student caught inhaling methamphetamine was put on probation for one year, while another student accused of sexual harassment was also put on probation five months later, according to screenshots of the announcements shared on Weibo.
Pang Jiulin, a lawyer at Beijing Chunlin Law Firm, told Sixth Tone that both the court and the school had made “fair decisions” and followed their respective laws and regulations for Nu’s case. However, he said the school could have disclosed more details on the case to better justify its decision.
“It’s a clash between legislation and public morals,” the lawyer said. “The school should be more transparent about its handling of controversial issues, so it can deter further misunderstandings and debates.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: E+/People Visual)