As we all know, sexual harassment and assault is more about power than it is about sex. And in China, there is perhaps no place where young women are more vulnerable and powerless than on a college campus, where long-standing patriarchal values and imbalanced faculty-student relationships create conditions ripe for abuse.
On Monday, Chen Xiaowu 陈小武, a male professor at Beihang University (北京航空航天大学 Běijīng Hángkōng Hángtiān Dàxué), was suspended over accusations of sexual harassment made by his former student Luo Qianqian 罗茜茜. In Chen’s 15 years as a instructor, he allegedly repeatedly abused his power and preyed on his students, confident that he would be protected by a system that functions to his advantage.
Thanks to Luo, who stated a desire to see a “Me Too” movement (我也是 wǒ yěshì) in China, Chen’s actions have been brought to light. Academic institutions in China still have a long way to go in protecting its female students, of course — most schools could begin by writing down a procedure for handling allegations of sexual misconduct. But maybe times are changing.
NGOCN, a media group aiming to provide an information-sharing platform for all nonprofit organizations in China, published an article on Tuesday looking at 13 cases of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of college instructors over a span of four years. In a third of the cases, the accused went unpunished. NGOCN has given SupChina permission to reproduce the article, which appears below (with edits).
On May 21, 2014, a senior at Guangxi University of Finance and Economics told police that her thesis mentor made unwanted sexual advances toward her (the original article says “索抱” [suǒ bào] — in English, this translates into “solicit hugs,” and sometimes can be interpreted as an offer of sex, though the exact meaning isn’t clarified in this case). After a two-month investigation, the professor was given five days of detention as punishment. Unsatisfied with the result, the student made an appeal to Nanning Intermediate People’s Court. However, the court upheld the sentence.
In June 2014, two internet users, @汀洋 (Tingyang) and @青春大篷车 (Qingcundapengche), accused Wu Chunming 吴春明, a history professor at Xiamen University, of sexually exploiting his female students. The users posted on Weibo photos of Wu sleeping on a hotel bed, half naked, and screenshots of conversations on the chat platform QQ, in which Wu verbally harassed his students. Following the allegations, Xiamen University removed Wu from his position, but less than a year after, Wu returned to the public eye by becoming a member of the Chinese Society of Archaeology.
On October 12, 2014, Wang Xiaojian 王小箭, an associate professor at Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, published an apology letter after photos of him forcibly kissing two female students in a restaurant went viral online. In the letter, Wang said he crossed the line because he was under the influence of alcohol and promised not to repeat the same mistake going forward.
On October 24, 2014, a Peking University student reported to the school’s Commission of Discipline Inspection that Professor Yu Wanli 余万里 sexually abused her friend Wang Jing 王静 and got her pregnant. On November 20, Peking University made an announcement on its Weibo account, confirming Yu’s sexual relationship with Wang and acknowledging the case’s bad impact on the institution’s reputation. The school’s Party branch also terminated Yu’s CCP membership.
On June 18, 2015, a female student at Tianjin University of Technology exposed a male teacher at the school for harassing her on WeChat by sending porn videos and explicit messages. In one screenshot, the teacher, confronted with rejection from the student, said that he had no fear of being reported on. Shortly after, the school responded on its official Weibo account that it had temporarily suspended the accused teacher and would take care of the case properly after a probe. There’s been no follow-up since.
On August 14, 2015, someone on the administrative staff of Chaohu College in Anhui Province was called out by a graduate of the 2015 class, who said that this faculty member harassed her classmate by sending messages with explicit language and threats to withhold her degree certificate if she reported him. The allegation was later confirmed by the school’s authorities and the abuser was fired from his post.
In May 2016, a Ping-Pong teacher was suspended by Beijing Union University after allegations of him groping female students emerged on Weibo. The school authorities announced that the teacher denied all accusations. Until now, the case remains unsolved.
In August 2016, an investigative report, “Silent iron tiger — looking at on-campus sexual harassment at Beijing Normal University,” appeared online. The article was written by a student based on four months of investigation, and it disclosed a sexual abuse case involving a professor and his student. On August 30, the school said that an investigation had been initiated, but there have been no follow-up announcements.
In October 2016, an Internet user filed allegations of sexual harassment against a professor at Nanjing Normal University. The evidence provided by the victim shows the teacher using vulgar language while talking to her. The school vowed to launch an investigation into the matter, which remains unresolved.
In May, Alyosha 阿廖沙, a former 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 school officials, she was punished by having her degree certificate withheld. The school said on Weibo that it had paid great attention to the allegations and the matter would be dealt with properly by police. There have been no updates since.
In July, Feminist Voices 女权之声, a Beijing-based online publication and women’s organization that promotes gender equality and women’s issues, called attention to a sexual harassment case at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, in which professor Zhang Yide 张翼德 was accused of making sexist remarks in class and sexually harassing his students, and in multiple occasions using exam scores and postgraduate references to coerce female students.
In December, a female student from Nanchang University made a report to the school that she had been sexually abused by Zhou Bin 周斌, deputy dean of the graduate school, for about seven months. In addition to the report, the student published a collection of evidence on the internet, which garnered lots of attention. On December 20, the school announced that it had dismissed Zhou along with another dean, Cheng Shujin 程水金, for trying to cover up the assault.