#MeToo Hits China: Famed TV Host Accused of Sexual Harassment

MondayWeb_2018-01-08_china_04 - iStock - H 2018

Zhu Jun, the host of CCTV's Spring Festival Gala that's said to be watched by a billion people, has been accused of sexual harassment by a former intern.

Zhu Jun, one of China's best-known TV personalities and host of CCTV's Spring Festival Gala, has been accused of sexual harassment by a former intern. 

The #MeToo movement has had difficulty making an impact in China, but the accusation against Zhu is the first to involve a prominent member of the Chinese entertainment industry. The story contains the all too familiar tale of abuse of power and the subsequent cover-up that has marked many #MeToo stories around the globe. But what makes it uniquely Chinese is the concealment.

A Chinese user with the handle "Mai Shao Classmate" published a lengthy 3,000-word post on microblogging service Sina Weibo on Thursday, which quickly went viral, accusing Zhu of sexual harassment an undisclosed number of years ago.

Zhu is a prominent CCTV personality in China, whose claim to fame — apart from being the host of Artistic Life, where he in his signature sentimental style interviewed leading actors and singers, such as Chow Yun-Fat and Jacky Cheung — also includes a 20-year stint as one of the hosts of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, which has an annual viewership of approximately 1 billion people.

In the blog post, the writer says she was an intern on CCTV's Artistic Life and was one day instructed to bring fruit to Zhu's dressing room. She alleges that after a fellow intern left the room, the door of which was not completely closed, Zhu began talking about his influence and position, including making remarks such as "letting [the blogger] stay at the network." As he got more animated, he started "attempting to molest [me] through [my] clothes, taking no notice of [my] resistance," the blogger writes.

She says that she was saved from further attack by the arrival of the show's guest, contemporary Chinese opera singer Yan Weiwen, in Zhu's dressing room.

Shocked by the attack, the blogger claims that the blatant manner Zhu displayed must have meant he was used to behaving this way. That made her decide to go to the police to report the attack. But after the usual procedures of statement-making and evidence-giving, the authorities turned around to try to convince her to drop the charges, asserting that Zhu, as well as CCTV, were "positive influences to society" and she "should not destroy that image." The authorities also told her, she alleges, that they had contacted her parents, who were public servants and members of the Communist Party, and asked her not to expose the incident for their sakes. She accepted the request and was only moved to write the post after her friends criticized her for her "radical attitude" toward sexual harassment.

After the blog post was published on Friday morning, the name "Zhu Jun" began trending on Weibo, and the post received thousands of comments, some comparing the CCTV host to disgraced late BBC personality Jimmy Savile. But the blog post disappeared within hours, with the original blogger claiming she did not delete it herself.

This echoes previous reactions the Beijing government has given to revelations of sexual harassment and assault. Allegations made against authority figures in places like universities and high schools have been met with suppression, warnings to silence the discussion and sometimes victim-shaming. The tag #MeTooChina has been sporadically blocked on a major social media network.

The allegations against Zhu follow the sexual assault allegation against Zhang Wen, media veteran and one of the "100 Public Intellectual in China" and charity activist Lei Chuang earlier this month, suggesting that China is beginning to grapple with its own #MeToo moment.