Chinese colleges cut professor after 20-year-old assault allegation goes viral

Shanghai Normal University (above) and the School of Liberal Arts at Nanjing University have cut ties with the professor accused of sexual assault. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SHANGHAI NORMAL UNIVERSITY

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Top universities in China have cut ties with a professor following outrage on social media after details were shared online of an alleged sexual assault that has been linked to a student's suicide almost 20 years ago, according to state media.

Last week, a person claiming to be the student's classmate accused Shen Yang, a language professor, of the assault and called for a re-examination of the case.

The alleged victim died in 1998. Shen could not be contacted on Sunday (Apr 8) for comment.

Peking University, where Shen taught until 2011, said it served Shen a disciplinary warning based on a police report at the time, but is now re-examining the case.

"The punishment given by Peking University 20 years ago showed Shen had demerits in teaching ethics. Any form of punishment cannot erase what happened," said the school in a statement cited by state news agency Xinhua.

The School of Liberal Arts at Nanjing University and Shanghai Normal University, where Shen holds current roles, both cut ties with the professor on Saturday, said Xinhua.

It comes as Chinese students and professors are rallying around #MeToo, a global movement to combat sexual harassment and assault, despite heavy-handed online censorship and bans on open protests in the country.

The movement gathered steam in China when another professor at a Beijing university was accused of sexual harassment by a former student in a blog post that went viral in December.

The professor, who worked at Beihang University, was stripped of his title in January and fired from the university. A week later, more than 50 professors signed an online letter calling for stricter rules to combat sexual harassment on campuses in China.

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