Today, after three years of legal battles, the sexual harassment case that galvanized China’s #MeToo movement was thrown out of court for an alleged “lack of evidence.” Standing outside of Beijing Haidian District People’s Court, plaintiff Zhou Xiaoxuan, who goes by the nickname Xianzi, thanked her supporters and vowed that she would appeal the decision.
Xianzi’ s comment on the failure of her case today/last night. She emphasized that the court did not grant basic procedural justice and that she would definitely appeal. pic.twitter.com/8Ahg5otYw8
— FreeChineseFeminists (@FeministChina) September 14, 2021
— Jiacheng Zhang (@jiachengzhang21) September 14, 2021
The case came to public attention in 2018, when Xianzi accused well-known CCTV host Zhu Jun of kissing and groping her against her will in 2014, while she was an intern at the state broadcaster. She sought a public apology and 50,000 yuan ($7,600) in damages, but was repeatedly stonewalled by the court and prevented from presenting evidence that would support her case.
Court ruled against Xianzi bc of "insufficient evidence" but had also stonewalled her requests to retrieve video evidence & to compel defendant Zhu Jun to appear in court (Xianzi described this in May: https://t.co/umbnsR5s0O). Below is a summary of some of the points she raised pic.twitter.com/G6z3DUopId
— Darius Longarino 龙大瑞 (@DariusLongarino) September 14, 2021
After going public about her experience, Xianzi faced additional obstacles and threats: Zhu Jun sued her for damaging his reputation, which resulted in her civil case against him; her parents were threatened and pressured by police to get her to drop the case; and her personal Weibo account was blocked, as were the accounts of other women’s rights groups who shared posts about the case.
CDT has published a number of translations related to Xianzi’s case, including essays posted in 2018 by Xianzi herself and Classmate Maishao, a blogger who helped her story gain widespread attention; an interview with Xianzi and accounts from her supporters last December, when her case received a court hearing; and an essay posted by Xianzi in May on the eve of a scheduled second hearing which was then unexpectedly postponed.
Despite today’s decision, the case has become part of the public legal record and the public zeitgeist, setting precedents that could make it easier for other women to come forward in the future. At the Diplomat, Huizhong Wu and Sam McNeil detail some of the ways that Zhou Xiaoxuan broke new ground by bringing her case to court:
Throughout, Zhou has pushed to make the court hearing a matter of public record and requested the court order Zhu Jun to appear, citing basic legal procedures.
When she filed the suit in 2018, such complaints were treated as labor disputes or under other laws that didn’t relate directly to sexual harassment. Zhou’s was termed a “personality rights dispute.”
The court rejected a request by her lawyers to have her case heard under a legal provision enacted after she filed the suit that explicitly cites sexual harassment.
“I believe that justice in these basic procedures is a necessary path to take to get a fair result, and all the efforts we made before the hearing are not just for victory, but for a fundamental fairness,” Zhou wrote on her WeChat social media account on Monday. [Source]
This is very disheartening, but I don't think all is lost. The Xianzi case has garnered so much attention. Those who suffered are now more willing to speak up. Those who didn't care are now paying attention. Feminists and their allies move forward stronger. https://t.co/ApUm9KinxE
— Yaqiu Wang 王亚秋 (@Yaqiu) September 14, 2021