Former world champion faces allegations of sexual misconduct as badminton coach

Society & Culture

A 17-year-old female athlete came forward last week with allegations of sexual assault against Liu Jianjun 刘坚军 (pictured above, left) and Zhang Wei 张伟 (above, right), two coaches of the municipal badminton team of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province.

On July 26, the alleged victim shared her story (in Chinese) on Weibo under the name “@孙孙向你扔了只狗” (sūnsūn xiàng nǐ rēngle zhǐ gǒu — literally “Sunsun throws a dog at you”). The post says that Liu, a former world champion and now head coach of the municipal team, first sexually attacked her when she was 14 and continued to molest her over the subsequent years. She said that Zhang, a former national team player, attempted to rape her when she was 14.

“I kept the secret to myself in the last few years, which made me deeply depressed. Thanks to the care and encouragement of my friends and family, I finally had the courage to make this public. I hope more and more girls who have been assaulted will speak up,” the girl said in the post.

When approached by Qiantang News, a local news publication, the girl said (in Chinese) that she reported the case to the local sports authority last year, after her father discovered her diary in which she detailed the assaults. However the complaints fell on deaf ears.

Liu and Zhang initially denied the allegations. But last Thursday, sports news website PP Sports released (in Chinese) an audio recording provided by the girl, in which Liu and Zhang appear to confess to their inappropriate behavior after being confronted by the girl’s father. “This is the most regretful, most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Liu is heard saying. “I am aware that it has caused frustration for you and your daughter.”

Meanwhile, Zhang comes off as more defensive. “I want you to calm down because we are here to solve the matter,” he tells the angry father. “You know what I did and I’ve told you that I’ve taken some measures to minimize the damage.”

Despite the recording, Liu and Zhang both insist on their innocence. Liu declined to comment on the matter when reached (in Chinese) by Qianjiang News, saying he’ll wait for the investigation to run its course. Zhang said he is taking legal action against the girl for defamation. In response, the girl wrote on Weibo, “I’ll be waiting for you in the police bureau no matter what happens.”

The report comes amid growing momentum for the #MeToo movement in China. There were several troubling exposés last week involving prominent people in the Chinese media and nonprofit industries, including accusations against Zhu Jun 朱军, a high-profile television host, and Lei Chuang 雷闯, the founder of a major charity.

TV host Zhu Jun accused of sexual harassment

#MeToo in China reaches the nonprofit and media worlds