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News > World

Women in China Say 'Me Too' Too

  • A protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Los Angeles.

    A protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Los Angeles. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 January 2018

Hong Fincher said the women who have so far revealed their stories are "the tiniest, tiniest tip of the iceberg."

The Me Too movement, which was started by civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006, but went viral in October 2017 has become a rallying cry against sexual harassment in United States, Europe, certain regions in the Americas and Asia. The movement has now reached China where women are coming forward to narrate harrowing incidents of sexual assault.

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"Some women have come out … [but] what’s really striking is how few," Leta Hong Fincher, an expert in China’s feminist movement, told the Guardian, attributing the reason to the socio-political milieu in the country. 

Luo Qianqian, a scholar, revealed her personal experience in a blog post, detailing a sexual assault episode which she experienced 12 years ago, saying, "[There’s] no longer any need to be afraid … we need to stand up bravely and say ‘No!’,” she wrote, urging other women to speak out using the hashtag #我也是 (#WoYeShi or #MeToo). 

"I still remember clearly the scene of his sexual harassment twelve years ago (late 2004 to early 2005), and every sentence he had said at the time was like iron in my head," Qianqian wrote.

Hong Fincher who is also working on a book, "Betraying Big Brother: China’s Feminist Resistance," said the women who have so far revealed their stories are "the tiniest, tiniest tip of the iceberg." And that, "all the activists working on these issues – rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence – will tell you that."

"There is a history of the Chinese government being really worried about political upheaval outside its borders affecting its own population and there is no question whatsoever that the #MeToo movement is seen by the authorities as potentially posing a threat," Hong Fincher added.

A staggering 80 percent of working women in China experience sexual harassment, according to a 2009 report published by two professors at City University in Hong Kong. 

Last month, a Beijing-based bank manager was fired over harassing a female co-worker for nearly six months. The female worker finally quit her job last month and posted screenshots of incriminating messages in a 60-member WeChat forum, which led to the manager's expulsion, per the China Labour Bulletin. 

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In 2015, China passed a Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests, with the resolution to protect women from sexual violence, with the ability to take perpetrators to court, and potentially subjecting the employers to fines and lawsuits for mishandling cases. 

But many accused of sexual harassment continue to roam scot-free. 

Peng Jin, a lawyer specializing in civil affairs litigation at Yi Fa Law Firm in Beijing, told China Daily, "All workers' rights are protected under the Criminal Law and the Labor Law. However, not all assault activities at workplaces are punishable under legal provisions." 

Zheng Xi, a student from Hangzhou, inspired by U.S.' "Silence Breakers," has launched a public anti-sexual harassment campaign. "I thought those actors were so brave," she told the Guardian.  

While the women in China haven't fully embraced the Me Too movement, snippets of sexual assault incidents reflect on how patriarchy is prevalent everywhere. 

“There is still a belief in China, deeply ingrained in traditional culture, that it is a virtue of women to be submissive to the wishes of others,” women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan, who documented her struggle in the documentary Hooligan Sparrow about bringing justice to six schoolgirls who were molested by a school principal in 2013, told the Washington Post. 

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