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- A Chinese university announced it had removed a prominent professor after hearing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
- The professor’s firing has become a major win for China’s #MeToo movement, which has struggled to gain traction in a traditional and largely conservative society.
- Sexual misconduct has long been taboo subject in China, but the movement is slowly bringing the topic to the national agenda.
But China’s version, #WoYeShi, has struggled to gain traction in a traditional and largely conservative society that still struggles to accept that sexual harassment is still an issue.
But last week, the movement had a major victory. Beihang University announced late Thursday that it had removed a prominent professor after hearing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him, according to the Washington Post.
In its investigation, the university found that Professor Chen Xiaowu “did sexually harass female students,” the Post said. The university added that Chen would be fired from his post as vice president of the university and had his teaching license revoked.
Luo Xixi, a Chinese academic living in the US wrote on Chinese social media that as Chen’s former student many years back, the professor lured her to his sister’s house home and made unwanted sexual advances, according to reports. She managed to escape in tears, according to her post, and five other students came forward with allegations after Luo went public.
Luo called the news an “initial victory” in a statement.
The movement’s initial victory came out of a grassroots push for survivors of sexual misconduct to find their voice, particularly on university campuses.
According to the South China Morning Post, students and alumni from dozens of Chinese universities launched online petitions in the last several weeks urging their schools to put policy into place that would prevent sexual harassment on campuses.
But the movement faces many challenges
Sexual misconduct has long been taboo subject in China, apparent by the fact that the movement has struggled to gain its footing in the conservative country. Besides for the trauma of assault, victims are also up against the state’s crackdown on activism and an inefficient legal system, the Post said.
“Some women have come out … [but] what’s really striking is how few,” Leta Hong Fincher, an expert in China’s feminist movement told the Guardian.
Fincher told the Guardian that China’s Communist party censorship has facilitated a culture of censorship, making it all the more difficult for women to come forward and share their story.
Hong Fincher also believes Chinese media has been told to avoid aggressive coverage of sensitive issues, leaving issues like sexual misconduct out of the public agenda.
“There is a history of the Chinese government being really worried about political upheaval outside its borders affecting its own population and there is no question whatsoever that the #MeToo movement is seen by the authorities as potentially posing a threat,” she says.
Huang Xueqin, a Freelance journalist, shared her story of sexual assault with the South China Morning Post and voiced her frustration with the movement’s slow burn.
“This is such a serious problem, but why is it so quiet here? It’s like the #MeToo movement never created ripples in China,” she said.
Huang created a social media platform called Anti Sexual Harassment for victims to come forward in a safe space and gather the tools necessary to prosecute perpetrators.
Despite the challenges, Huang said she is determined to catapult the movement forward.
“If the government asks me to stop, I will negotiate with them. But I don’t want to and I want to keep going, because I am doing the right thing.”