WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flash Flood Watch View Alerts

An intern took on one of China's biggest TV stars in a landmark #MeToo case. She lost, but vowed to fight on

An intern took on one of China's biggest TV stars in a landmark #MeToo case. She lost, but vowed to fight on

Posted: Sep 15, 2021 4:31 AM
Updated: Sep 15, 2021 4:31 AM

He is one of the most recognizable faces on Chinese television. She was a 21-year-old intern working on his show.

Three years ago, Zhou Xiaoxuan became the face of China's fledgling #MeToo movement when she took Zhu Jun, a prominent host at state broadcaster CCTV, to court, accusing him of groping and forcibly kissing her in a dressing room during her internship in 2014.

Sexual harassment lawsuits were rarely seen in China at the time, and Zhou's case was widely regarded a barometer for the country's progress on addressing entrenched gender inequality.

On Tuesday, that landmark legal battle ended in Zhou's defeat. A court in Beijing ruled against her after a long-delayed second hearing, citing "insufficient evidence."

Zhu, 57, is a former member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a top political advisory body to the Chinese government. He is best known for having hosted CCTV's annual Lunar New Year gala -- the most-watched TV show in China with more 700 million viewers -- for two decades since 1997.

Zhu has not directly commented on the case in public. He has denied all allegations through his lawyer and filed a separate lawsuit against Zhou for defamation, according to a statement from his lawyer in 2018.

The ruling is likely to deal a further blow to the country's struggling women's rights movement. Despite rising awareness about gender equality, young feminists in China face increasingly stringent censorship, unrelenting state harassment and misogynist attacks from online nationalists. Zhou's account on Weibo, China's Twitter-like platform, was suspended in July for violating "Weibo complaint regulations."

Emerging from the courthouse at about midnight after Tuesday's closed-door hearing, which lasted about 10 hours, Zhou told dozens of supporters that she planned to appeal.

"I've exhausted all my efforts," said a tearful Zhou, also known by her nickname Xianzi. "I feel very regretful that I couldn't give everyone a better result."

"You did great! You've already done so much," her supporters shouted in reply, according to videos shared by people at the scene.

Zhou accused the court of failing to ensure procedural fairness. She said the judge had refused her repeated requests to retrieve corroborating evidence, such as security camera footage outside the dressing room.

Zhou's case is a reality check for China's stifled #MeToo movement, which was recently thrust back into the spotlight following two explosive rape allegations involving a top celebrity and a tech giant. Last month, Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu was formally arrested on suspicion of rape following online accusations. Police also detained an Alibaba manager over sexual assault allegations made by an employee, though prosecutors later dropped the case.

In both cases, authorities acted swiftly following public outcry, but the official narrative avoided any mention of the broader problem of deep-rooted gender inequality, and cast blame on foreign influence and the entertainment industry instead.

As Zhou's long-running case illustrated, survivors of gender-based violence in China can face grueling legal battles, even though the country now has a new civil code defining what constitutes sexual harassment.

"Survivors in Xianzi's position face near-insurmountable odds because courts give little credence to testimony and are looking for 'smoking gun' evidence," said Darius Longarino, a research scholar at Yale Law School who has worked extensively on China's gender equality issues.

"Zhu Jun is powerful, and it seems like outside political pressure was tipping the scales even further in his favor," he said.

Throughout Tuesday, the Beijing court was closely guarded by scores of uniformed police officers and plainclothes security personnel, who cordoned off streets, checked people's identification cards, kept a close watch on the crowds and at one point snatched a protest sign from a supporter, according to witnesses at the scene.

When Zhou appeared outside the court prior to the hearing -- clutching a bouquet of flowers and a copy of China's civil code in her hands -- she was ushered away by unidentified men and women before she could finish her speech.

As the hearing proceeded, another battle was being waged on social media by censors. On Weibo, users who shared photos and videos of the scene outside the courthouse and updates on Zhou's case found their accounts suspended for a week or longer.

But many remained undeterred.

"Xianzi's case has become a point of connection and hope for Chinese women...We won't use the result to define our efforts in the past three years. It's great comfort and encouragement to see more and more people sharing our path," said Ashley Xie, who waited outside the courthouse in support of Zhou throughout the hearing.

"No matter how difficult it may be to speak up in the future, we will carry on. Once ignited, the sparks of #MeToo can never be extinguished."

Lv Pin, a prominent Chinese feminist now based in New York, said over the past three years, Zhou's case sparked public discussions and significantly raised social awareness about sexual harassment. It also contributed to the growth of China's feminist community and exposed the many flaws in the country's legal system, she added.

"She did not win the case, but its significance and impact on civil society in the process is huge -- and that won't disappear just because of the outcome of the ruling," she said.

In the small hours on Wednesday, Zhou posted a statement on Chinese social media app WeChat pledging to continue her fight to her supporters online.

"There is no shame in failure. I'm honored to have stood with everyone in the past three years...It wasn't an easy matter, but an extremely arduous and glorious journey," she wrote. "Thanks everyone, I will definitely appeal."

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 473413

Reported Deaths: 9214
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32339474
Hinds30703575
DeSoto29814346
Jackson23263336
Rankin21111358
Lee14600217
Madison14043265
Jones13165218
Forrest12953233
Lauderdale11418297
Lowndes10249175
Lamar10048128
Pearl River8737209
Lafayette8078136
Hancock7324111
Washington6837147
Oktibbeha6820118
Neshoba6404201
Monroe6372158
Warren6326161
Pontotoc610393
Panola6071124
Bolivar6016143
Marshall5972118
Union564086
Pike5491133
Lincoln5232130
Alcorn520888
George457868
Scott451993
Leflore4401140
Prentiss437276
Itawamba436198
Tippah436180
Simpson4268111
Copiah425586
Wayne424863
Tate4234100
Adams4219114
Yazoo415886
Sunflower4088104
Covington407391
Marion4032100
Leake393185
Coahoma388198
Newton364474
Grenada3517101
Stone345657
Tishomingo324888
Attala321185
Jasper310262
Winston300391
Clay288273
Chickasaw282164
Clarke277487
Calhoun259739
Holmes259485
Smith243947
Yalobusha216747
Tallahatchie215649
Walthall205557
Greene204045
Lawrence203831
Perry196453
Amite193751
Webster191941
Noxubee174538
Montgomery169853
Jefferson Davis165541
Carroll159937
Tunica148434
Benton139433
Kemper137439
Claiborne125634
Choctaw124925
Humphreys123337
Franklin115227
Quitman101825
Wilkinson99835
Jefferson86632
Sharkey62120
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 768301

Reported Deaths: 13209
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1093481727
Mobile699891179
Madison48418589
Baldwin35707452
Shelby35193291
Tuscaloosa33029512
Montgomery32582664
Lee21908204
Calhoun20140377
Morgan19351318
Etowah18583433
Marshall17272259
Houston16139353
St. Clair14956276
Limestone14129180
Cullman14069235
Elmore14010245
Lauderdale13128272
Talladega12399215
DeKalb11890229
Walker10231312
Autauga9493127
Blount9418149
Jackson9115136
Coffee8646161
Colbert8324169
Dale8284159
Escambia6456106
Tallapoosa6394168
Covington6313157
Chilton6243133
Russell591654
Franklin563597
Chambers5240132
Marion4628115
Dallas4626178
Clarke451471
Pike450091
Geneva4252106
Winston407987
Lawrence4046102
Bibb396177
Barbour338968
Marengo320981
Monroe311547
Butler309783
Pickens298769
Randolph294055
Henry293856
Hale286081
Cherokee279850
Fayette272271
Washington243545
Crenshaw232265
Clay221561
Macon214454
Cleburne209748
Lamar187839
Conecuh177139
Lowndes169056
Coosa163631
Wilcox154335
Bullock147142
Perry134235
Sumter123335
Greene119241
Choctaw72325
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 76°
Columbus
Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 75°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Starkville
Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 75°
Occasional areas of rain and some scattered thunderstorms will be in store for most of the weekend. However, good news by later sections of next week, as cooler and drier air will work its way into our weather forecast.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather