Peking University (PKU) authorities are reportedly trying to silence Yue Xin 岳昕, a student who is demanding full disclosure of an investigation into a sexual harassment and suicide case dating back to the 1990s. Shen Yang 沈阳, a literature professor at PKU in the 1990s, has been accused of raping and sexually harassing his student Gao Yan 高岩, who friends say was driven to suicide.
The accusations became widely known about two weeks ago. Shen is no longer at PKU, and he lost his positions at Nanjing University and Shanghai Normal University after the scandal broke. But a lack of follow-up reports in the media and Shen’s disappearance did not stop a group of PKU students from demanding that the school publish all information regarding the case. Yue, a senior undergraduate student from the School of Foreign Languages, is one of them.
Yue wrote an open letter on April 23 (in Chinese), saying that ever since she and seven other students jointly submitted a petition to school officials on April 9, she has been constantly harassed and intimidated by the school. Yue said that school officials forced her to delete all the information she had about the case, and persuaded her parents to ground her for an indefinite amount of time.
According to Yue, a school official and her mother stormed into her dorm at midnight on April 22 and took her home. “My mother and I barely had any sleep that night. When the school contacted my mother, they distorted facts and used fabricated allegations to scare my mother. She almost had a mental breakdown,” Yue wrote. “PKU’s unjustifiable interference disrupted the relationship between my mother and me. When I saw my mother crying, slapping her face, falling on her knees, and threatening to end her life, my heart was bleeding.”
However, Yue said that she wouldn’t give up on pursuing the truth and asserting her rights. “Why should I feel guilty for requesting transparency of information? I didn’t do anything wrong and I don’t regret submitting the petition. I am just claiming my rights as a PKU student.”
The school official who took Yue’s mother to the school denied Yue’s accusation of intentional interference on a PKU internal internet forum, saying that everything she did was out of pure concern for Yue’s safety.
What happened to Yue was an escalation of the harassment received by Deng Yuhao 邓宇昊, also a current student at PKU, who wrote an open letter (in Chinese) earlier this month calling on his fellow students and PKU professors to collectively demand transparency of information regarding Gao’s case. We previously noted that shortly after the letter was published, Deng was ordered to meet school officials at midnight, and the “negotiation,” as described by his friends, lasted for almost four hours before he was allowed to leave.
Yue’s post was quickly censored from the internet, which prompted people paying attention to the matter to adopt unconventional methods to circulate the information, such as using blockchain technology to make the information inerasable on the internet and flipping the post’s screenshot upside down to avoid WeChat’s censorship.
On the campus of PKU, some posters appeared on bulletin boards in support of Yue before they were removed by what appears to be some school police, as shown in a photo.
It still remains unknown why a prestigious university such as PKU went this far to suppress its students and protect a potential rapist, but the below message that has been spread in some PKU WeChat groups seems to indicate some clues.
Translation: This is a reminder to teachers and students. After Yuhao talked to some school staffers, the school’s Party committee defined the whole incident as similar to student activism and a political movement. Some students at school are colluding with each other, and some are colluding with external forces. We should be aware of ill-intended reporting from some bad media both domestic and foreign. It needs to be emphasized that this year is very special. It marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up, the 40th anniversary of gaokao resumption, and the 120-year anniversary of PKU. So please protect your safety.