Minitrue: Don’t Hype #MeToo Content

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

All websites take note of and immediately delete all information related to Zhu Jun, leave no area neglected. (July 25) [Chinese]

Do not hype any content related to “MeToo.” Strictly control commentary and news related to Zhu Jun. (July 27) [Chinese]

Zhu Jun is a prominent host who has been accused by a former station intern of , following a series of accounts of harassment and rape posted online by Chinese women as part of the global movement. While the movement has gained sudden momentum in China, authorities have also made moves to limit the discussions, and some women, including Zhu’s accuser, have been discouraged by officials from taking legal action. Karen Chu reports for Hollywood Reporter on the case against Zhu:

Zhu is a prominent CCTV personality in China, whose claim to fame — apart from being the host of Artistic Life, where he in his signature sentimental style interviewed leading actors and singers, such as Chow Yun-Fat and Jacky Cheung — also includes a 20-year stint as one of the hosts of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, which has an annual viewership of approximately 1 billion people.

In the blog post, the writer says she was an intern on CCTV’s Artistic Life and was one day instructed to bring fruit to Zhu’s dressing room. She alleges that after a fellow intern left the room, the door of which was not completely closed, Zhu began talking about his influence and position, including making remarks such as “letting [the blogger] stay at the network.” As he got more animated, he started “attempting to molest [me] through [my] clothes, taking no notice of [my] resistance,” the blogger writes.

She says that she was saved from further attack by the arrival of the show’s guest, contemporary Chinese opera singer Yan Weiwen, in Zhu’s dressing room.

Shocked by the attack, the blogger claims that the blatant manner Zhu displayed must have meant he was used to behaving this way. That made her decide to go to the police to report the attack. But after the usual procedures of statement-making and evidence-giving, the authorities turned around to try to convince her to drop the charges, asserting that Zhu, as well as CCTV, were “positive influences to society” and she “should not destroy that image.” The authorities also told her, she alleges, that they had contacted her parents, who were public servants and members of the Communist Party, and asked her not to expose the incident for their sakes. She accepted the request and was only moved to write the post after her friends criticized her for her “radical attitude” toward sexual harassment. [Source]

Soon after she posted her account, authorities moved to shut down related discussion online. Lily Kuo reports for the Guardian:

Soon after her post was published, the CCTV host’s name was trending on Weibo, with thousands of comments.

[…] By Friday, all stories and mentions of his name were scrubbed from Chinese social media. Search terms “Me too” or “Metoo” were among the most blocked, according to Free Weibo, which tracks censored terms on the microblog.

[…] Discussion of #MeToo inevitably leads to debates about rights, organising among the public, and protests – all things Chinese authorities quickly clamp down on.

Censorship is not the only obstacle. Police often pressure those reporting sexual assault to drop their cases, especially in incidents that don’t involve . Criminal punishment for sexual harassment is rare, and in civil suits are limited to compensation and apologies, according to legal experts. [Source]

In a statement, Human Rights Watch pointed out that the relatively few sexual harassment cases that go to court mask the true situation for women in China:

Among the over 50 million court verdicts from 2010 to 2017 available publicly, only 34 focused on sexual harassment, according to a June study by the Beijing Yuanzhong Gender Development Center. Among those 34 cases, only two were brought by victims suing alleged harassers, and both of those cases were dismissed for lack of evidence. In fact, the majority of the 34 cases were brought by alleged harassers themselves, claiming breach of contract after they were dismissed by employers for sexual harassment, or for defamation-related reasons after accusations were made public by victims or employers.

The microscopic number of sexual harassment lawsuits is no indication that harassment isn’t a problem in China. Nearly 40 percent of women in China said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The absence of court cases indicates instead the difficulties women face seeking legal redress for abuse. [Source]

When the #MeToo movement first started last year in the U.S. and spread globally following a New York Times report on serial sexual harassment and rape by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, it did not immediately gain momentum in China due to censorship and other social and cultural factors. A 1998 rape case at Peking University initially became a rallying cry for the movement’s supporters, but student Yue Xin, who wrote an open letter about the case, was harassed by school authorities and her letter was censored online. However, the movement has gained steam in recent weeks as more than 20 accounts of harassment were published online, naming sometimes prominent members of Chinese society, including NGO activists, notably rights advocate Lei Chuang; a pilot; professors; journalists; and others. In response to accusations against several members of China’s NGO community, feminist activist Li Maizi wrote an essay about the culture of assault in China’s public interest sphere: “The #MeToo movement again illustrates the power of feminism’s challenge to the patriarchy,” she wrote.

Despite the recent outpouring of stories, the movement is again beginning to hit the limits of official tolerance. From Clifford Coonan at Irish Times:

The “MeToo” hashtag on the Twitter-like service Weibo has been clicked on over 77 million times with 45,000 comments, although most postings have been deleted.

In a WeChat article by the magazine Portrait, the Beijing-based website called for readers to share their experiences of sexual assault.

“Within 24 hours, we have received 1,700 stories regarding sexual harassment,” it said. The post has since been deleted by censors, and clicking on the content triggers a message that it violates internet regulations.

However, of the 1,724 questionnaires which it received, only 20 respondents said they had chosen to report it to police, most of those said they had not received protection from the police and the conviction rate was low. [Source]

In a sign of a gradual shift in attitudes, some who have spoken out claim that the willingness to do so is generational, as Te-Ping Chen and Chunying Zhang report for the Wall Street Journal:

“Our generation is quite unique. We are the product of the one-child policy,” said Xiao Yue, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who also took to social media to share interactions with Mr. Lei that had made her uncomfortable. Ms. Xiao suggested that China’s one-child policy created a generation of only children whose parents were able to give them a better education and who are consequently more willing to defend themselves.

[…] Writer Chun Shu says #MeToo cases face particular hurdles in China, including the public’s limited understanding of women’s rights. “There are so many reasons to not speak out,” she said, citing damaged self-esteem and fear of public humiliation. “A number of friends have told me they’ve been raped, and the reason they don’t say anything is because the price would be too great—they don’t want to be hurt yet again,” she said.

While awareness about women’s rights in China lags, it is improving, said Zheng Xi, a Zhejiang University student active in fighting campus sexual-harassment issues. “The #MeToo movement has already educated the public,” she said, adding that people are growing less likely to blame victims. [Source]

Translation by Josh Rudolph.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.