High-profile charity chief in China confesses to sexual assaults

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Environmental activist Feng Yongfeng has become the second high-profile charity chief in China to confess publicly this week to sexually assaulting women.

Mr Feng, the founder of the Beijing Fengtai Origin Enthusiast Environment Research Centre, released a statement online on Tuesday (Aug 14) admitting that he had harassed three women in charity circles since October while "under the influence of alcohol".

"Harassment is impossible when I am awake, but alcohol sometimes destroys my bottom line and leads me to harm women," said Mr Feng, who also works for Guangming Daily, a national newspaper.

The statement was released via the WeChat account of Environmental Activists, another non-government organisation founded by Mr Feng, but it was deleted shortly after it appeared.

According to a screenshot of the statement, the 47-year-old felt sorry for his deeds and had stepped down from managing the organisations. He also apologised to all the women involved and pledged not to repeat the offences.

The Fengtai research centre promotes awareness of environmental protection and animal welfare. The Ai You Foundation, which provides financial support for the centre, said on Tuesday that it had severed all ties with the centre.

Mr Feng's confessions came after an anonymous letter was released late on Monday accusing someone identified as "xiaozhang" (Chinese for headmaster) of raping and harassing female colleagues.

Although Mr Feng was not named in the letter, he was believed by many to be the target. The letter said that the victims worked for several charitable organisations, including the well-known Narada Foundation.

Mr Feng said in his since-deleted statement that he believed the author of the letter was an environmentalist in Nantong, Jiangsu province, who received support from Environmental Activists between May 2015 and June 2018.

Mr Feng's confession came just 24 hours after a similar one by Mr Lei Chuang, founder of Yi You Charity, which addresses discrimination against people with hepatitis B. Mr Lei confessed to perpetrating sexual abuse three years ago and announced that he would quit as head of the non-governmental organisation.

His statement came after an anonymous article was posted online on Monday by a person claiming to be a woman whom Mr Lei had sexually abused after a charity hike.

A charitable industry insider who asked not to be named said people working for charities should draw lessons from the two cases and strengthen oversight to prevent similar offences.

However, she also noted that sexual assaults are not exclusive to charitable organisations; therefore, there is no need for demonising charity workers.