Zhou Xiaoxuan, who was born in Wuhan and moved to Beijing at the age of 18, is a Chinese screenwriter and feminist activist. She is better known as pen name Xianzi.

In 2018 Xianzi wrote an essay, where she revealed her experience that in 2014 as a journalist intern she was sexually harassed by Zhu Jun, a famous Television host at CCTV. She was 21 years old then and was frozen with fear. The day after of the incident she reported it to the police, but in the end she was forcefully persuaded to give up the claim by them.

However, after her essay attracted the public attention with the surging #Me Too movement in China in 2018, Xianzi sued Zhu for a public apology and a compensation for the damages. in August 2022, the Beijing’s intermediate court rejected her appeal because of “insufficient evidence.” Although disappointed by the ruling, Xianzi appreciates her supporters and hopes her case continues to provoke public interest in the fight for seeking justice.

Here is her statement outside the court.

On June 9th, 2014, I was still a 21-year-old junior in college. I was doing my first internship with the “Art Life” program at China Central Television (CCTV), the state broadcaster. When I was sexually harassed by Zhu Jun (the host of “Art Life”) in the dressing room, I did not call for help immediately out of a sense of shame attached to sex. Being aware of Zhu Jun’s powerful position, I did not have the courage to let other staff members who walked into the room know what had happened. I believe this is very common for women experiencing sexual harassment in higher education and work spaces. The only exception in my case is that I had a university teacher who helped me at that time. The day after the incident, my teacher, roommates, and lawyers accompanied me to file a complaint at the police station. From data and everyday experience, we know that only a small percentage of female survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault to decide to call the police in time.

When I called the police in 2014, the officers told my parents that because of Zhu Jun’s high social status, I should give up on the case. In 2020, when this case went to trial for the first time, the court told me that both the surveillance footage and the police record in the court files were not obtainable. In 2021, the judgment stated that the litigant is responsible for providing the evidence, and the evidence I provided was deemed insufficient.

Today is the hearing for my appeal, and it might be my last time going to court for this case. While I have stated these facts in court again and again, this time, I want to ask the court: for a woman who was sexually assaulted in an enclosed space, who couldn’t have anticipated this assault, who didn’t record audio or video, who didn’t fight back or wrestle with her harasser, how can she prove that she was sexually assaulted? Is it her only choice to bear everything and pretend none of it has happened?

Four years ago, when I reported to the police for remedies, the police’s first reaction wasn’t to interrogate the perpetrator. Instead, three days after I called the police, they went to find my parents in Wuhan and asked them to persuade me to give up on this case. Not until the seventh day did they finally go to CCTV to talk to Zhu Jun, resulting in a very brief interview transcript. Four years later, when I filed this case in court for legal relief, the court didn’t allow me to prosecute as a sexual harassment case. They refused to summon Zhu Jun to testify in court. They refused to examine Zhu Jun’s witnesses after both witnesses were proven to be lying, including the witness who led me to the dressing room and the one who entered the dressing room and left. The court told me that my parent’s testimony, the surveillance footage in the hallway, my dress, and the picture of me and Zhu Jun in my camera were all not obtainable, and as such I didn’t provide enough evidence for my case.

May I ask the court what kind of evidence I can provide? There was no way I could have anticipated that I would be sexually harassed, nor could I have recorded audio or video in advance. I didn’t dare to resist Zhu Jun there inside the CCTV building, nor was I able to call for help immediately. After I went to the police, I could never return to CCTV, and there was no way for me to access or confront Zhu Jun. I wasn’t able to check the surveillance footage inside the building, or complete the DNA test myself. At 21, I called the police for the first time, and had no idea that I could ask for a police report record or Receipt of Physical Evidence.

I would like to ask Zhu Jun’s witnesses: why did you lie? Why would you even deny knowledge of Zhu Jun’s outfit in that dressing room? I would like to ask the police officers who were investigating my case: why did you go to Wuhan to look for my parents, and wasted an entire week before proceeding to interrogate Zhu Jun? Although I persisted in showing up in court every single time, I was not able to see them, let alone ask any questions. I could not prove my honesty; nor could I prove my pain. My tears from the night of the incident, as witnessed by my teacher and my roommate and recorded in their statements, seemed to have vaporized like steam.

The 21-year-old me chose to go to the police, and the 25-year-old me chose to prosecute. Both times I was seeking remedies from the judiciary, in the belief that as a citizen I am entitled to justice. I believe that the police ought to conduct the investigation in a timely manner, take safe custody of evidence, and respond to the complainant in accordance with laws. I believe that the court should at least be conscious of the complexity of sexual harassment in the workplace, be mindful of the power imbalance between me and Zhu Jun, the police, and CCTV, and obtain as much evidence as possible, or at least interview the defendant who was accused of conducting sexual harassment in an enclosed space. I don’t think the court should — as they did in the first trial — reject the request for investigation right after listening to statements from both sides, and then adjudicate immediately.

Today, I’m already 29 years old. It is my third time walking into the court waiting for a decision, but perhaps a real investigation would never come. All I can do is to regret why I did not foresee the sexual harassment. I should have brought a recording pen and a needlepoint camera — after all, those are the only kind of evidence that could convince the court. However, no matter what the result turns out to be, I still want to say what I want to say in this court and believe my words will be heard by the judge. This will not be meaningless.

I would like to address that the judicial system does not have innate authority, nor is the court’s judgment inherently the truth. When we ask for relief from the legal system as citizens, we as victims are also entrusting the strangers in court with the power to adjudicate our bodies and our memories. This trust does not come from thin air. Those who hold this power should earn this trust with their actions. People in power should help the powerless; otherwise, there is no justice.

It would be hurtful to lose this case, yet I know I should not be the only one that was examined and interrogated. The law is not constructed by clauses, texts, and judges. Instead, it is constituted with procedural justice and our pursuit for truth. The essence of law depends on whether everyone involved believes in equality, equity, and morality, and whether the marginalized and the underprivileged remain dignified when they seek help in the system. Law dwells in the most intricate and vulnerable part of our hearts. The real crisis here is not the absence of facts or evidence, but our shared doubts about humanity at this moment.

Therefore, even when facing a failed court appeal, I would still like to ask the court: When sexual harassment takes place in an enclosed environment, as long as the defendant denies all the claims, if there is no video recording, is staying silent the only choice left for the women victims instead of seeking justice from the judiciary system? I spoke out on my fright and panic during the incident and the weakness and powerlessness I found myself in afterwards. And I believe my story is not just a stand-alone case, but reflects the general predicament women face in our society.

I believe that the sufferings of women who experience similar situations need to be seen. Only if we value individuals’ pain can we arrive at collective happiness. Perhaps due to the unspeakable power behind this case, I cannot receive the justice that I deserve. However, I still believe that through my narratives, when everyone in the courtroom becomes aware of the challenges that women face, and at least acknowledge that when sexual harassment occurs, the authorities should conduct investigation to seek the truth. I hope that the next litigant who comes to this courtroom will gain more understanding from others. I believe that narrating my story at this moment is meaningful.

Japanese version: https://wan.or.jp/article/show/10628
Xianzi kindly wrote an original article for WAN in which she expressed her feelings about the whole experience.