A professor at a prominent Chinese university has been sacked after a former student’s accusations of sexual harassment went viral.
Beijing’s Beihang University announced the decision to strip Chen Xiaowu of his position as executive vice-director late Thursday after an investigation into accusations against him.
The story exploded into public view in early January, after one of Chen’s former doctoral students, Luo Qianqian posted on China’s Twitter-like Weibo that the professor had tried to pressure her into sex 12 years ago.
Luo, who lives in the US and went on to collect accusations from several other alleged victims, tagged the post #WoYeShi, the Chinese translation of #MeToo, writing that the campaign had inspired her decision to act.
“In my heart, a voice said to me ‘me too,'” she wrote, describing her feelings when she first saw the flood of posts that kicked off the viral movement against sexual harassment.
She was further determined to act when she discovered that Chen had impregnated another student, she told the Chinese newspaper Global Times.
Chen’s “behaviour gravely violated professors’ professional ethics and behavioural norms, and has created a vile social influence,” Beihang University wrote on its official Weibo account.
The #MeToo campaign spread rapidly in October after multiple accusations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and has since shaken artistic, media and political circles globally.
It has however been slow to catch on in China, where sexual harassment is rampant, but efforts to unmask it are often frustrated by government apathy or even active resistance.
In 2015, Beijing police detained five feminist campaigners who had planned to distribute leaflets and post stickers against domestic violence in several cities, releasing them a month later only after an international outcry.
Despite gains under Communism, women largely remain in the shadow of men in traditionally male-dominated China.
On Chinese social media, commenters applauded Luo.
“I’m thankful that (she) could be courageous enough to stand up,” said one on Weibo, adding: “I hope that all of her female compatriots can understand the significance of what she’s done.”