A sexual harassment case against a powerful Chinese media figure began in Beijing on Wednesday, with his accuser calling it a major moment in the country’s still-young #MeToo movement.
Zhou Xiaoxuan, now 27, sparked a social media storm in 2018 after accusing prominent television host Zhu Jun of groping and forcibly kissing her when she was an intern at state broadcaster CCTV.
China’s first-ever civil code — passed in May — expanded the definition of sexual harassment, but many women are still reluctant to come forward and it is rare for cases like this to make it to court.
“I’m very nervous,” she told AFP on Wednesday ahead of the hearing. “But whether we win or lose the case, it has meaning.”
“If we lose, it allows the questions we raised at least to remain in history. Someone will have to give us an answer.”
Ms. Zhou said she found herself alone in a dressing room with Zhu in 2014, and that he groped her after asking if she wanted to continue to work for the channel after her internship.
Ms. Zhu is a former host of the country’s annual Spring Festival Gala — one of the world’s most-watched television shows.
He has denied the allegations, and launched his own court case accusing her of damaging his reputation.
There were several hundred supporters outside the court on Wednesday, some holding banners reading “#MeToo” or “We oppose sexual harassment”. Lucy Lu, a supporter, said: “No matter what happens, we think she is very brave.”
Ms. Zhou broke down in tears as she addressed her supporters ahead of the trial, telling them: “We may be joyous or we may run into setbacks. But please don’t take my setbacks to heart.
“We have to believe that even if history repeats itself, things will definitely progress,” she said.