Coming Forward Against Singer, Young Woman Resparks China’s #MeToo Movement

China’s entertainment world has been shaken by a young woman’s accusation that singer-actor-model Kris Wu date raped her and other unnamed teenage girls. By coming forward, Du Meizhu, the 18-year-old accuser, may have reinvigorated China’s recently moribund #MeToo movement, which has been hamstrung by official censure. At The New York Times last week, Elsie Chen reported on the allegations against Kris Wu and their significance for China’s #MeToo movement:

Mr. Wu’s accuser is Du Meizhu, a university student in Beijing who said she first met him when she was 17. She said she had been invited to Mr. Wu’s home by his agent with the suggestion that he could help her acting career, according to her social media posts and the interview with Netease, an online portal. Once there, she was pressured to drink cocktails until she lost consciousness, she said, and later found herself in his bed.

[…] “This incident shows that nowadays people will no longer swallow insults and humiliation and be afraid of slut shaming,” said Feng Yuan, a feminist scholar and activist. “People increasingly want to speak up and make themselves heard.”

[…] Ms. Du said she felt helpless when she learned that Mr. Wu specifically targeted young women like her. “Indeed, we are all softhearted when we see your innocent expression, but that does not mean that we want to become playthings whom you can deceive!” she wrote in a post on Weibo. [Source]

An AFP report detailed the outpouring of support Du received on social media after coming forward:

“My life has definitely been ruined,” Du said. “Although I have only ever slept with Wu, the public has long thought that I’m damaged goods,” she wrote in a Weibo post with more than 7.3m likes.

[…] The allegations triggered an outpouring of solidarity from Chinese women, with the Weibo hashtag “girls help girls” gaining more than 130m views by Monday.

The hashtags “Du Meizhu interview” and “Du Meizhu demands Wu Yifan announce he is quitting the entertainment industry” gained 1.8bn and 440m views respectively on the Twitter-like platform. [Source]

Chinese authorities and others have suppressed the #MeToo movement. Courts often rule against sexual assault plaintiffs and Weibo recently suspended activist Zhou Xiaoxuan’s account for unspecified violations. But a number of state-affiliated media outlets have publicly condemned Wu. Although Beijing police have not yet brought charges, they are investigating his behavior. At Variety, Rebecca Davis reported on official statements intimating legal consequences for Wu:

China’s strictly controlled state broadcaster CCTV issued a statement Tuesday calling for the creation of better industry-wide mechanisms to “force artists to improve their moral character and raise the bar for becoming a star.”

“Being an artist is not just a profession – it’s more about taking on social responsibility. Now that the Kris Wu incident has blown up to such proportions, it is no longer mere entertainment industry gossip, but a legal case and public incident of great influence, requiring a comprehensive investigation by the relevant departments to resolve any doubts,” it said.

[…] In a Weibo missive re-posted more than 2 million times, the central committee of the Communist Youth League wrote: “What we are really concerned with isn’t celebrity gossip, but about good and evil, beauty and ugliness in society, about fairness and justice in a society with rule of law.” [Source]

Such official statements are likely not an embrace of #MeToo but rather part of a broader effort to curtail the influence of “stars” and an accompanying fandom culture that has authorities worried about Chinese youth’s “erosion.” Celebrities that violate state- or society-imposed moral strictures often find themselves the target of official criticism. Earlier this year, a surrogacy scandal involving actress Zheng Shuang demonstrated state media’s willingness to weigh in on celebrity gossip.

It soon became clear that the condemnation of Wu did not imply support for Du Meizhu. At Vice News, Viola Zhou detailed multiple official outlets’ accusations that fame, not justice, was Du’s principal motivation for accusing Wu:

State-run newspapers then attacked the woman for hyping up her allegations for fame. The official Legal Daily called her a “malicious marketer.” The Beijing Daily said instead of reporting the case to police, Du posted her allegations online to seek attention and followers.

[…] Zheng Churan, a feminist activist who has campaigned against sexual harassment in China, said many victims have resorted to posting their experiences online because it would be even harder to uphold their rights through official channels.

“If authorities label this as fame-seeking… it might put the victims under more public pressure,” she said. “Eventually, the victims would have no way to defend their rights, and the assailants would be emboldened.” [Source]

Whatever state media’s intentions, Du’s public account of her ordeal has inspired other women to come forward with their own experiences. In response to such aspersions, Du wrote: “So many women who were deceived have reached out to me; I’ve already done all I can to give them a voice […] You can say I’m sensationalizing to become famous online—whatever you want to say is fine, I don’t care… I’ve tried my best.” At The South China Morning Post, Mandy Zuo reported on two allegations against powerful academics in the wake of Du’s public stand against Wu:

Zhou Xuanyi, an associate professor at Wuhan University and a well-known online commentator on women’s rights, has been suspended from teaching after a woman alleged that he date raped her, the university said in a statement last week.

[…] It was also revealed earlier this month that the Anhui Agricultural University in Hefei, Anhui province, is probing a senior official for sexually harassing a female student after the student, Zhang Xiaoxiao, took to social media several days after the Wu scandal broke.

[…] The accusations against Wu by influencer Du Meizhu could be the beginning of a new wave in China’s entertainment circle, said Hou Hongbin, a feminist writer in Guangzhou.

It would at least encourage more women to come forward in the future when encountering similar situations, she said. [Source]


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