More than two years ago, He Qian, a former journalist in China, filed allegations of sexually assaulting a well-known journalist. Her story is widely circulated on the Internet, helping to promote China’s rapidly rising #MeToo movement.
Now, Ms. He, 32, is punished for this. A Chinese court ruled this week that she violated the libel law through public accusations.
She and Zou Sicong, a friend who helped share stories online, were convicted of paying more than $1,800 in attorney’s fees and compensation to the man accused of assault, Deng Fei. Deng Xiaoping denied this accusation.
Ms. He’s case has been closely watched by the Chinese government’s tolerance of China’s small but vibrant #MeToo movement. The court’s ruling in the eastern city of Hangzhou highlighted the challenges faced by Chinese women, who face sexual harassment and attacks on prominent men.
Although the ruling party strictly restricts activists and dissidents and strictly controls the Internet, #MeToo has received attention in China in recent years. After women spoke about harassment and abuse, many prominent men in Chinese companies, religious institutions and universities were forced to resign.
But there are still many obstacles. In China, rape and sexual harassment are often regarded as taboo objects. The authorities often discourage women from filing complaints. In recent years, people accused of harassment have sued their accusers for defamation, which critics say is intimidation and silence.
After Zou Wenxuan posted the article on social media accounts, the article circulated online in China. When he was an intern in the Chinese edition of Phoenix Weekly in 2009, he wrote about her time in 2009. Is the chief reporter. She said that Mr. Deng invited her to the hotel room to discuss the story, and then forcibly kissed and fumbled her.
After the article was published, Mr. Deng sued Ms. He and Mr. Zou for defamation.
The Hangzhou court, represented by Deng Xiaoping, said that Ms. He and Mr. Zou did not provide sufficient evidence to prove the alleged assault. The court said: “What they described lacked factual evidence and legal basis.”
Ms. He and Mr. Zou indicated that they would appeal the decision.
Mr. Deng did not respond to a request for comment. “I have never done anything so bad and stupid,” he wrote in a recent social media post. He said he did not remember seeing her.
Mr. Zou said that Chinese law should respond more positively to women who have made accusations of assault and harassment.
He wrote on the popular social media application WeChat: “I hope that a topic will disappear and it is ignorant and boring to return to the old world.” “I will be responsible until the final article about He Qian is published.”
For activists who aspire to protect women’s rights and overthrow the Chinese patriarchal culture, this decision is a setback.
Feng Yuan, co-founder of a non-profit organization for women’s rights in Beijing, said the court “completely denies sexual harassment.”
Ms. Feng said: “In the face of sexual harassment, many people feel even more powerless.”
Despite the government’s efforts to limit activism, the #MeToo movement has achieved some success in China and continues to receive support from women of all backgrounds.
Last month, a Beijing court heard the case of Zhou Xiaoxuan, a former trainee of the China National Broadcasting Corporation, who was accused of sexual assault by the famous TV personality Zhu Jun. (Mr. Zhu denied the accusation.) Dozens of people gathered outside, some of them with the #MeToo hashtag, showing support rarely seen in Chinese court proceedings.
Despite the court’s decision, Ms. He said that she will continue to hear the case. She said that she was encouraged that her case prompted some discussions on women’s rights in China.
She said: “The worst-case scenario is that if no one discusses or pays attention to this topic, no one dares to stand up.”
Albee Zhang contributed research.