Chinese court rules against #MeToo plaintiff in case involving TV personality Zhu Jun

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A Beijing court late on Tuesday (Sept 14) ruled against the plaintiff in a high-profile Chinese sexual harassment case, saying there was insufficient evidence to support her claims, a decision likely to deal a blow to China's #MeToo movement.

Ms Zhou Xiaoxuan, 28, in a series of social media posts in 2018 accused television personality Zhu Jun at state broadcaster CCTV of groping and forcibly kissing her in 2014 when she was an intern working for him. He denied the allegations.

Ms Zhou's accusation quickly went viral and she sued Mr Zhu for damages three years ago, although the first hearing of the case was not held until December last year behind closed doors. The second hearing on Tuesday was also held behind closed doors.

The Haidian People's Court said in a judgment which only identified Ms Zhou and Mr Zhu by their surnames that the evidence submitted was "insufficient" to prove sexual harassment.

It was unclear if Mr Zhu was present in court on Tuesday. A lawyer for Mr Zhu could not be reached.

Ms Zhou told a small group of supporters after the court's decision that after three years of pushing her case she felt "exhausted" and "disappointed" on hearing the verdict.

In her view, she said, she had not been given a chance to give a proper account of what happened.

"I don't know if I still have the courage to stick to it for another three years, so I don't know if this time will be a farewell."

Later in a statement, though, Ms Zhou said her team would appeal the verdict.

"We will definitely appeal, because in this case we didn't look at any of the core facts at all, that is all of the surveillance videos."

China's #MeToo movement took off in 2018 when a college student in Beijing publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment. It spread to non-governmental organisations, the media and other industries.

Discussion of #MeToo was then stifled, but recent extensive coverage in China, without obvious censorship, of sexual assault scandals involving tech giant Alibaba and celebrity Kris Wu has rekindled the topic.