China’s leading #MeToo figure Zhou Xiaoxuan lost her appeal in her trial against CCTV anchor Zhu Jun earlier this week due to a lack of evidence.
The Beijing Municipal No.1 Intermediate People’s Court rejected the Beijing-based screenwriter’s appeal on Wednesday on the grounds of “insufficient evidence,” the same ruling a Beijing court issued in September.
“The court held that the evidence submitted by the appellant Zhou was not sufficient to prove that Zhu had sexually harassed her, and that the appeal could not be substantiated,” the Beijing court said in a statement posted on Weibo.
Despite the recent decision and the odds stacked against her, Zhou, better known in China as Xianzi, told Reuters she still plans on applying for a retrial.
“We will talk to our lawyer and fight for a retrial. There may be basically no chance of re-starting it. But we also want to tell the justice system that we are making one last-ditch effort,” Zhou said.
“We’ve faced so many blows already, and what you can see is that this blow didn’t overwhelm Chinese women, didn’t make people give up their claims and make their demands,” she added.
A small group of supporters greeted Zhou near the courthouse on Wednesday, handing her flowers and holding up signs of support that read: “History and we the people are on your side, Xianzi!”
Zhou accused Zhu of forcibly kissing and groping her inside a dressing room in 2014. She was 21 at the time and working as an intern for the CCTV anchor’s show.
Zhou publicly accused Zhu and later took the case to court in 2018, helping push the country’s #MeToo movement forward. Since China did not consider sexual harassment to be a legal offense at the time, Zhou sued Zhu for infringement of “personality rights,” demanding a public apology and 50,000 yuan (approximately $7,415) in damages.
The case’s first court hearing occurred on Dec. 2, 2020, at the Haidian District Court in Beijing. The court did not give an immediate verdict, and the second hearing scheduled for May 2021 was reportedly canceled without any explanation.
Zhu, aged 50 at the time, denied all the allegations and filed a counter lawsuit against Zhou for defamation. Their legal battle became a widely discussed topic in China, sparking a widespread clampdown on feminist activism and online discussions about women’s rights.
Zhou eventually became a target of online trolls after garnering massive support on Weibo, with some users accusing her of lying and “colluding with foreign forces.”
“If I didn’t start the lawsuit myself, I might never know what kind of injustice other victims of sexual abuse would suffer after entering the [judicial] system,” Zhou says in a video she posted for her followers. “We’re still in an environment where we have to sacrifice our feelings, sacrifice our pain in exchange for understanding.”
China’s #MeToo movement gained traction in 2018 after a student accused her college professor of sexual harassment. One of the most high-profile cases was the sudden disappearance and reappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai in 2021.