China vows tougher action on academics accused of sexual misconduct

Society & Culture

China’s top education authority on Monday promised to act against sexual assault and harassment on college campuses, saying that educators who face allegations of sexual misconduct would face stronger consequences in the future.

The pledge is stated in a set of new guidelines (in Chinese) released by the Ministry of Education and six other central government agencies on December 16. Titled “Directives to Improve Teachers’ Morality and Professional Ethics in the New Era,” the document includes a series of policies aimed at addressing “pressing issues” of concern to the public and that have an “adverse impact” on society. The problems highlighted in the document include instructors offering tutoring services outside of schools, teachers receiving gifts from students and parents, and academics sexually harassing students.

Offending teachers will be subject to various degrees of punishment; serious violations could lead to lifetime bans from teaching. The document also says the Ministry will build an online platform for complaints about misconduct, as well as a comprehensive system to check the backgrounds of prospective teachers, especially their criminal records.

In a press conference on Monday morning, Rèn Yǒuqún 任友群, a senior official with the Ministry, further clarified the government’s stance on the problem of sexual misconduct on college campuses. “The Ministry has been paying close attention to teachers’ morality and ethics. When it comes to cases where instructors harm students’ physical and mental health, such as sexual harassment, we have adopted a zero-tolerance approach toward the issue,” Ren said.

It’s worth noting that while the guidelines apply to teaching staff at all schools across China, the part on sexual harassment applies only to higher-education institutes.

The directives arrived in the wake of two high-profile sexual misconduct scandals that were brought to light in the past few weeks. Earlier this month, the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics fired an associate professor after allegations that he sexually harassed a student in November. About a week later, Peking University sacked an assistant professor after receiving complaints that he had sexual relationships with several female students.