As 2018 begins, the #MeToo campaign that spread across the world through social media and prompted thousands of women to stand up against sexual assault and harassment has finally reached China.
As The Diplomat noted earlier, the #MeToo campaign in China was ignited by Luo Xixi, a former student at Beihang University in Beijing. She publicly accused her former doctoral professor, Chen Xiaowu, of harassing her 14 years ago, by posting an article under the #MeToo hashtag on her Weibo.
Luo’s public accusation immediately drew national attention. Beihang University also released a statement on its Weibo, claiming that the school has set up a special group to investigate the case, and Chen has been suspended.
Luo also urged her readers “to stand up bravely and say No!”
Inspired by Luo, a large number of Chinese people — college students in particular — have done just that.
Gu Huaying, a former college student of Peking University (one of the most prominent universities in China), drafted a public petition letter to the current president of Peking University, calling for establishing an anti-sexual assault mechanism on campus.
She suggested that the college should organize a special training on sexual harassment for all faculty and students, conduct an anonymous survey on sexual harassment among students every semester, set up a channel for students to report misconduct, and specify a person overseeing the issue.
After graduated from Peking University, Gu later studied Multidisciplinary Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge. In her petition letter, she further quoted a series of anti-harassment policies in Western society and wrote a detailed draft regulation. She also called for other students from both her own and other universities to sign the petition letter.
“A single spark can start a prairie fire. Even as a student, I should try my best to bring light and warmth to my surroundings,” she said in the letter.
Her single spark did start a fire on China’s social media. Some social media outlets claim that this petition letter has been spread to students in more than 30 universities across the country and thousands of students have signed the letter.
However, this national campaign has obviously put the Chinese authorities on edge.
Even though the petition letter doesn’t involve any “bad information” that can lead to so-called social instability, China’s censors still decided to delete it completely from social media, since any movement in itself is suspicious from the authorities’ perspective. Many netizens thus found that their posts about the petition letter on Weibo were deleted instantly without any explanation. So far, the original petition letter has been cleanly wiped out from the internet.
Despite the fierce censorship, more and more Chinese people are publicly calling for establishing anti-sexual assault mechanisms now, although they deftly refrain from mentioning the petition letter at all.