September 14, 2021
By Martin Quin Pollard
BEIJING (Reuters) – The plaintiff in a high-profile Chinese #MeToo case headed into a second closed-door hearing in Beijing on Tuesday in what she said could be her last time in court in her lawsuit against a prominent state TV host.
Prior to entering the court, which was surrounded by dozens of uniformed police and other unidentified plain-clothes security personnel, an emotional Zhou Xiaoxuan clutched a bouquet of flowers as she thanked supporters.
Zhou in a series of social media posts in 2018 accused television personality Zhu Jun at state broadcaster CCTV of groping and forcibly kissing her in 2014 when she was an intern working for him, allegations he denies.
Zhou’s accusation quickly went viral and she sued Zhu for damages three years ago, although the first hearing of the case was not held until December 2020, also behind closed doors.
It was unclear if Zhu was present in the court on Tuesday. A lawyer for Zhu could not immediately be reached.
Zhou told supporters and reporters near the court that this could be the last time she would pursue this case, without elaborating.
One of a dozen or so supporters briefly held a placard reading “Let’s stand together” before a police officer snatched it away. Unidentified plain-clothes security personnel also recorded reporters’ interviews with some of the supporters.
“There has not been a significant women’s movement in China as there has been in, for example, the United States or the United Kingdom, so the society still I believe behaves and thinks in a way which resembles the patriarchy,” said a supporter outside the court called Fei.
“Women are still prey.”
China’s #MeToo movement took off in 2018 when a college student in Beijing publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment. It spread to NGOs, media and other industries.
Discussion of #MeToo was then stifled, but recent extensive coverage in China, without obvious censorship, of sexual assault scandals involving tech giant Alibaba and celebrity Kris Wu has rekindled the topic. [L8N2PG2D1]
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; Writing by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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