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2022-10-25 10:36:13

China’s food delivery platform Meituan has reportedly fired a senior manager after he was accused of sexually harassing a female trainee, details of which were published and widely shared on social media platforms Monday.

The woman, who posted the allegations on the multipurpose app WeChat, said her boss made unwanted physical advances during a dinner that he said would allow him to “become familiar with the new faces.” She identified the accused as 40-year-old Qin Changjiang, who used the pseudonym Bai Xiangwen on the company’s internal messaging platform, and said he touched her thigh and waist without consent during the dinner on Oct. 9.

“I joined Meituan hoping to embrace a new start to my career,” wrote the trainee, who joined the company’s office in Shanghai in August. “I never thought it would turn out to be the start of a nightmare.”

A member of staff at Meituan, who requested anonymity due to the company’s privacy policies, confirmed to Sixth Tone that Qin was fired Monday evening for unspecified reasons. They said that discussions on social media suggested that he may have harassed other subordinates, too.

“Meituan spends tons of money on background checks before hiring. Was Meituan really unaware of Qin’s tainted reputation?” the employee said. “The head of our company hasn’t apologized so far, and Meituan only briefly wrote about the firing on our internal messaging platform.”

Meituan didn’t respond to Sixth Tone’s request for comments by publication time.

In recent years, more Chinese women have called out their perpetrators on social media. Last month, at least a dozen former students of a prominent tutoring academy accused their ex-tutor of raping and sexually harassing teenagers, leading to him being detained.

China has strengthened its legal mechanisms against sexual harassment and abuse in schools and workplaces over the years. The new civil code, enacted in 2021, provides greater legal protection against harassment in workplaces and makes it easier for victims to sue the accused.

However, such cases continue to occur. A 2021 survey by the Justice4Her project and Qianqian Law Firm showed that over 70% of the 2,413 respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace more than once.

The woman who made the accusations against the Meituan manager posted about the harassment in detail, along with screenshots of their chats. Qin asked the woman to make her WeChat timeline public, so he could “know you better.”

In one instance, the woman said Qin offered to send the trainee to her hotel and insisted on visiting her room despite her repeated rejections. She said she was staying at a hotel at that time as she hadn’t rented an apartment.

“He toured my room, saying ‘Well, it’s safe here, aren’t you the one who’s making the room a dangerous space?’” the trainee wrote. “He knew how to build connections, offer alcohol, and take advantage of me as much as possible without leaving evidence.”

Rights experts note that insufficient evidence has proved to be one of the major factors stopping victims of sexual harassment and abuse from making police complaints and even courts making verdicts. In August, a Beijing court rejected an appeal in a landmark sexual harassment case against a veteran television host, citing “a lack of evidence.”

The woman who accused Qin didn’t mention possible legal action in her WeChat post, but said that the experience had traumatized her. She said she was diagnosed with acute stress disorder on Saturday, following bouts of depression and insomnia.

However, she hoped that her post would embolden more women to call out their perpetrators. She also stressed for companies to open channels for sexual harassment to be reported and adopt a zero-tolerance policy against such abuse.

“Tolerating incidents of sexual harassment causes the greatest harm to vulnerable groups within the company,” she wrote. “I still believe and hope that the world will become better, but it can only be achieved by fighting, speaking, and defending endlessly, and not through silence.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: VCG)