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Court dismisses ex-intern sexual harassment lawsuit against TV star as Chinese #MeToo movement silenced


Beijing – A Chinese court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a woman who claims she was sexually harassed as an intern by a prominent TV personality in the country, dealing a blow to a #MeToo movement which has struggled to gain momentum in China.

In a statement released online, the Haidian People’s Court in Beijing said it dismissed the case filed by former intern Zhou Xiaoxuan, who claimed to have been sexually harassed in 2014 by talk show host Zhu Jun – a well-known name in China.

Court dismisses ex-intern sexual harassment lawsuit against TV star as Chinese #MeToo movement silenced
Chinese #MeToo figurehead Zhou Xiaoxuan, left, is comforted after being accosted by strangers as she addresses reporters and supporters outside the Haidian District People’s Court ahead of a hearing in her case against TV host Zhu Jun on September 14, 2021 in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer / Getty


The court dismissed the case filed by Zhou, who is now 28, saying evidence submitted by his legal team did not prove harassment, Zhou told CBS News on Wednesday. She said she plans to appeal the decision.

Zhou first raised the allegations against Zhu in a series of social media posts by herself and her friends in 2018, giving details of her alleged experience during an internship at public broadcaster CCTV, where Zhu was his superior.

Zhou claimed that the famous interviewer, known to make stars cry on his set, groped and forcibly kissed her.

The posts quickly went viral on Chinese social media sites, but were quickly removed by government censors.

Court dismisses ex-intern sexual harassment lawsuit against TV star as Chinese #MeToo movement silenced
Leading figure in China’s #MeToo movement, Zhou Xiaoxuan, right, waits for his identity to be verified by police before entering the Haidian District People’s Court for a hearing in his case against prominent TV host Zhu Jun, September 14, 2021 in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer / Getty


Weeks later, Zhu denied Zhou’s charges and filed a lawsuit against her in a Beijing court, citing defamation. Zhou then filed his lawsuit against Zhu, officially alleging the harassment. She is asking for a public apology and damages of 50,000 yuan ($ 7,600).

The first hearing of the case did not take place until December 2020, behind closed doors.

The long-running and high-profile legal battle and constant censorship of its social media content has made Zhou a symbol of the Chinese #MeToo movement.

But she and her supporters saw their content quickly removed from Chinese social media platforms, and the protests were quickly halted.

Court dismisses ex-intern sexual harassment lawsuit against TV star as Chinese #MeToo movement silenced
Unidentified man grabs a small protest sign saying ‘stand in solidarity’ from the hands of supporter of China’s #MeToo movement figurehead Zhou Xiaoxuan outside the Haidian District People’s Court ahead of a hearing in his case against prominent TV host Zhu Jun on September 14, 2021 in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer / Getty


Several other cases of harassment and rape have drawn attention to the issue of women’s safety in China in recent months.

Chinese-Canadian singer Kris Wu was arrested in August by Beijing police on suspicion of rape, and a former director of Chinese tech giant Alibaba has been charged with rape by a colleague. The former Alibaba executive was released after prosecutors refused to press charges against him.

Another famous television host, with a station in central China, was also charged with rape last month.

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