Young #MeToo Activists Broaden Calls for Equality

Young #MeToo Activists Broaden Calls for Equality

In China, the #metoo movement against sexual harassment and rape had a slow start, due to both deeply ingrained cultural and social norms and political censorship and interference. But it has gained momentum in recent months as more victims publicly spoke about their abuse and named their harassers, including several high-profile media personalities, non-profit leaders, religious figures, academics, and others. Yet some survivors and their advocates have continued to face official resistance and censorship as they try to pursue justice against their attackers. Graduate student Ren Liping has sued local police after her accusations of rape against her ex-boyfriend were dismissed. Yanan Wang reports for AP:

At first, Ren did not plan on reporting her alleged rape.

“I didn’t know what people would think of me,” she said.

When it continued to haunt her five days later, she told the school, but administrators encouraged her to keep quiet. Then she went to the local police station, where a female officer told her to drop her claim, saying that not all sexual experiences are pleasurable, according to Ren.

Frustrated, Ren filed lawsuits against the police and started holding protests. [Source]

As Ren discovered, deep-rooted sexism still works against women coming forward with accusations. Liu Qiangdong, the high-profile CEO of, has been accused of rape in Minnesota and the police there are currently investigating his case. His case has become a hot topic on the Chinese internet, as users learn about the legal system and procedures in the U.S. But the online response also shows how far the #metoo and feminist movements have to go in China. From

Look more closely, though, and you’ll find another, equally ugly narrative. Dotting Weibo posts and WeChat groups are photos of a busty babe in a series of revealing outfits, who some netizens claim was the victim. You can almost hear the air quotes around the word, not-so-subtly shifting the blame from attacker to the attacked.

In fact, the woman is Chongqing net celeb Jiang Jieting, who has since publicly announced that she has no connection with the case and is planning to file a legal complaint against rumormongers.

By that, she’s referring to posts and even articles over the last few days that have called her out or compared her to Liu’s wife, slimly-built Zhang Zetian of “milk tea sister” fame. The implied question – who would you/Liu Qiangdong pick? – has been answered in microblogs like the ones below.

Obviously, unsavory gossip on social media may not be an accurate reflection of China as a whole. But it shows that national discussion of sexual assault, as well as gender-inflected balances of power, still revolves in part around staid attitudes towards women. [Source]

Author Leta Hong Fincher argues in her new book, “Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China,” that China’s feminist activists have the potential to dramatically change society despite the many hurdles they face. From a review by Joyce Lau in the South China Morning Post:

The basic right to go about your daily life – to love who you want and say what you feel without harassment or abuse – is universally understood. And China’s feminists have received broad support.

“The feminist resistance may yet have the potential to become China’s most transformative movement in the long run – provided that any social movement is allowed to exist,” she writes.

That is a big caveat, given the level of state control over grass-roots move­ments. A generation from now, the Feminist Five could be remembered as rebellious icons who changed society. Or they may be a footnote in history. [Source]

The #metoo movement has helped inspire a younger generation of activists who have now expanded their focus to other issues of equality and justice in society, including labor rights. Yue Xin, a Peking University graduate who wrote about the harassment she and her family faced from school authorities after she requested information about a decades old rape case, has been detained in Shenzhen while advocating on behalf of workers there. Sue-Lin Wong and Christian Shepherd report for Reuters on Yue and her fellow activists who were helping workers at Jasic Technology factory to form an independent union and protest unfair working conditions:

In two-dozen interviews, Yue and other young activists in southern China spoke about the self-interest and materialism they saw among students in China’s elite universities.

The activists said they’d rather act to address growing inequality in China, as well as other social concerns.

They have been facing off with the Chinese government in recent months over issues like sexual assault on campuses, workers’ rights, and the right to host reading groups to discuss social issues.

[…] In the interviews, the activists cited Marxist and Leninist ideals, as well as quotes from Mao Zedong and President Xi Jinping, as they spoke about their desire to address China’s inequalities.

[…] “Something that is really drilled into us at university is this concept of having ‘sentiments for the family and country’,” said Feng Ge, 23, a Peking University student. “It can’t just be an empty slogan. Here we have an opportunity to act.” [Source]

In an open letter to Xi Jinping, translated by CDT last month, Yue wrote about how her activism is following Communist ideals and the stated goals of Xi’s administration:

As General Secretary Xi has said: “Young people across the country must set their ambitions high, increase their knowledge, and temper their will, so that they may shine brilliantly in the progress of the times.” The formation of this labor union by Jasic workers, established in accordance with the Constitution and Labor Union Law, can act as a catalyst for the safeguarding of workers as a subject of production. It is a call for social fairness and justice, pushing a new era ahead in great pioneering strides. As a young person who grew up in socialist New China, a youth who lives in the New Era, I have no excuse to stand by and do nothing, to look on helplessly as the workers of Shenzhen struggle alone. [Source]

On Twitter, Reuters reporter Wong provided more details about her reporting that didn’t make it into her story:


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