Chinese Court Rules Against Landmark Sexual Harassment Case
Zhou Xiaoxuan, one of the most prominent faces of the movement against sexual harassment and abuse in China, said she would appeal after losing her case against a prominent television host whom she sued for foribly kissing and groping her three years ago.
The Beijing Haidian District People’s Court on Tuesday dismissed charges against Zhu Jun, an anchor at state broadcaster China Central Television, citing “lack of evidence.” Tuesday’s hearing was the second time the court had convened since the first hearing in December and the abrupt cancelation of the trial scheduled for May.
Zhou, who is known by her pseudonym Xianzi, had publicly accused Zhu of sexually harassing her in a dressing room while working as an intern at CCTV in 2014. The now 28-year-old first spoke out about the experience in 2018, as more women started to call out perpetrators and hold them accountable.
Zhu denied the accusation and sued his accuser for defamation in September 2018, demanding 655,000 yuan ($95,000) compensation. That same month, Zhou filed a counter lawsuit, which became a landmark sexual harassment case in the country.
Speaking to the crowd gathered outside the courthouse following Tuesday’s trial, Zhou said the court had rejected her team’s request to include “core evidence” — including video footage from the scene of the alleged incident, her parent’s testimony, and an evaluation from an expert psychologist specializing in sexual harassment cases — citing they were “irrelevant to the case.”
In an article Zhou wrote in May, she said the judge had refused to classify the case as sexual harassment during a pretrial held in January 2019 and instead categorized it under “general personality rights dispute.” It wasn’t until December 2018 that the Supreme People’s Court recognized sexual harassment as a cause for legal action — previously, such lawsuits had to be filed under other similar grounds.
China’s new civil code, which was enacted last year, also grants legal protection to survivors of sexual harassment by holding their perpetrators accountable. After Tuesday’s trial, Zhou was seen carrying the civil code while speaking to the crowd outside the court.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Zhou Xiaoxuan poses for photo holding a copy of the civil code in Beijing, Sept. 14, 2021. From @我不要害怕 on Weibo)