As the movement becomes increasingly global, it reaches China

By Katherine Dominek, ’19

The #metoo movement started a tidal wave of sexual assault conversation not only in the United States but in China as well by traveling across the Pacific Ocean. In 2004, Luo Xixi, a student at Beihang University in Beijing, was sexually harassed by Chen Xiaowu, a noteworthy professor at the university.

After allegations against former film-mogul Harvey Weinstein had made their rounds, anonymous students shared their experiences in chat rooms. On Jan. 1, Xixi went public on Weibo, a microblogging site, detailing how Xiaowu had asked her to go with him to his sister’s house. How once they were in the house, Xiaowu demanded sex from her, letting her go only when she pleaded she was a virgin. What was unique about Xixi’s post was that she chose not to be anonymous, signing her name on the post. Later, that day her post had been seen more than three million times.

When Xiaowu denied the claims, Luo published a transcript of him sayings things like “Can’t I touch you?” and “Then can you touch me a little?”

On Jan. 11, the university accepted the veracity of Luo’s claims, as well as those of several other female students, and severed ties with Xiaowu.

However, this story is only part of a larger trend within China. A study done by the Guangzhou Gender Centre, an NGO (non-governmental organization), found that almost 70% of students said they had been harassed. Fewer than 4% said they had, or ever would, report assaults to the police.

Sophia Huan Xueqin, a journalist in southern China who started a social media platform to report sexual harassment, said that in China “It feels like we’re still in a traditional world where women are supposed to stay at home and support the family.”

Fearing social unrest, Chinese authorities have started blocking the hashtag “Me Too China” and phrases like “anti sexual-harassment” from social media and deleting online petitions calling for greater protection of women.

However, not even the censors can stop the tidal wave that has been set off.

“‘Me Too’ was an alarm bell for all of us,” Xueqin said. “We’re not brave enough to stand out as one individual. But together, we can be strong.”