Sexual harassment in China: Different than in the U.S.? - China’s latest society and culture news - SupChina

Sexual harassment in China: Different than in the U.S.? – China’s latest society and culture news


On October 16, the state-owned China Daily tweeted “What prevents sexual harassment from being a common phenomenon in China, as it’s in most Western societies?” and linked to an opinion piece that says China’s traditional values mean that men are more respectful to women. The reaction on Twitter was mocking and highly critical: Yuen Chen, a former journalist and Chinese University of Hong Kong teacher, responded, “Let me edit that for you: What prevents sexual harassment from being as commonly reported in China as in most Western societies?”

So how do levels of sexual harassment in China compare with those in the U.S., and what are the differences?

  • According to research conducted by the China Youth Daily, more than 53 percent of women said they or someone they knew had been sexually harassed on the subway.
  • A report released by the China Family Planning Association shows that one in three college students in China have experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment.
  • A 2013 survey by a labor rights group in Guangzhou found out that up to 70 percent of female workers in the city’s factories had been sexually assaulted.
  • Even though the incidence of rape based on police records in China stood at 2.1 per 100,000 people from 2003 to 2012, “a large number of sexual abuses are not recorded.” A 2013 survey indicated that 22.7 percent of Chinese males said they had raped a woman.
  • If you ever wondered why most Chinese women who were harassed on public transportation didn’t speak up, the chilling case of this lady who had her throat cut after slapping a molester on a public bus might give you some clues.
  • On campus, unjust sexual power dynamics are at play. This year in May, a former female student at the Beijing Film Academy claimed that she was harassed by the father of her class’s head teacher in 2011. But when she reported the case to the school officials, she was punished by having her degree certificate withheld.

We also did a quick telephone survey of women in China and poured over some social media comments (in Chinese). Here is what they said:

In China, there is more groping and grabbing on public transport — some guy will just grab your butt. But in professional settings, Chinese men are less physically aggressive. But they do use their power over women. They can fire or promote someone who agrees to be their girlfriend. So it’s the same.” —Ms. Li in Shenzhen

“There are a lot of perverts on the subway, especially during summertime. Sometimes I wonder, are they even afraid or ashamed of being caught harassing women in public?” —Ms. Zhang, a college student in New York

“China has less workplace sexual harassment than other countries? The author should take a look at how those guys working on senior levels at hedge funds sexually exploit their female interns.” —Ms. Chi in Shanghai, who works in the finance industry

“Those actresses who have stood up against Harvey Weinstein didn’t accuse him of sexual harassment when they won Oscar Awards. A classic trade-off in the entertainment business is money and sex. These women should have quit their jobs in their early career if they didn’t agree with that.” —A commenter on Weibo


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Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.