Chinese screenwriter vows to seek retrial after losing harassment case

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Zhou Xiaoxuan arrives at a court in Beijing

By Martin Quin Pollard

BEIJING (Reuters) -A Chinese woman who accused a well-known host on state broadcaster CCTV of sexual harassment said on Thursday she would seek a retrial, a day after having her case rejected at the appeal stage by a Beijing court.

Beijing-based screenwriter Zhou Xiaoxuan, 29, accused one of CCTV's premier entertainment show hosts, Zhu Jun, of groping and forcibly kissing her in 2014 when she was an intern working for him, allegations he denies.

Zhou's accusations, posted on social media in 2018, quickly went viral and she sued Zhu for damages that year. In September 2021, after two closed-door hearings, the Haidian People's Court, a district court in the Chinese capital, rejected her claims due to insufficient evidence.

Zhou vowed to appeal and following a further closed-door trial, the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court said late on Wednesday it rejected all of Zhou's appeals and upheld the original judgement.

"The court held that the evidence submitted by the appellant Zhou was not sufficient to prove that Zhu had sexually harassed her, and that the appeal could not be substantiated," the court said on its official Weibo account.

Speaking to Reuters on Thursday Zhou said she would probably apply for a retrial even though her chances of succeeding were "very slim".

"We will talk to our lawyer and fight for a retrial," Zhou told Reuters. "There may be basically no chance of re-starting it. But we also want to tell the justice system that we are making one last-ditch effort."

Zhu did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on Wednesday's court verdict. Zhou said he did not appear at any of the three hearings.

Zhou said she regarded the verdict as another blow to China's #MeToo movement, but wanted to stay positive. "We've faced so many blows already, and what you can see is that this blow didn't overwhelm Chinese women, didn't make people give up their claims and make their demands," she said.

China's #MeToo movement took off in 2018 when a college student in Beijing publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment. It spread to NGOs, media and other industries, but has also faced online censorship and official pushback.

China says it seeks to empower women and protect their rights, and in 2020 enacted legislation that for the first time defined actions that could constitute sexual harassment. But activists including Zhou say more should be done.

"I believe that the suffering of women in such situations needs to be seen, because it is by valuing the suffering of the individual that public happiness can be reached," Zhou said in a speech to supporters after the verdict, a video of which she posted on her WeChat account on Thursday.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Holmes)