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4-min read

Chinese Netizens Debate Victim-Shaming After Video of Alleged Rape Victim Goes Viral

The video depicts a young woman who in 2018 filed accused JD.com founder and billionaire Richard Liu of raping her in Minnesota. The two can be seen entering his house on the night of the alleged incident.

Rakhi Bose | News18.com@theotherbose

Updated:June 6, 2019, 1:19 PM IST
Chinese Netizens Debate Victim-Shaming After Video of Alleged Rape Victim Goes Viral
The #MeToo wave has spread to China too and several women have accused prominent personalities of sexual abuse and/or harassment | Image credit: Reuters

If you though slut-shaming and victim-shaming were only things that happened in India, you could not be more wrong. Almost every country including so called progressive, Western nations such as the US and UK has been guilty of it.

It is not surprising, therefore, that China has now joined the fray.

Following recent, highly publicised allegations of rape against the popular Chinese e-commerce billionaire Richard Liu who owns JD.com, by a 21-year-old Chinese student studying in Minnesota University, a raging debate about the nature of sexual assault and victim shaming has gripped social media platforms in China.

The woman had alleged that Liu raped her on August 30 last year in Minnesota where he was attending courses at the Minnesota University. He was arrested soon after the woman filed charges with Minnesota Police. However, after investigations, Minnesota prosecutors found the evidence insufficient to frame charges against the billionaire, who is something of e-commerce poster boy in China with his rags to riches story.

Liu's lawyers have denied all charges of rape and maintained that whatever happened between the two was consensual.

And now, to make matters worse for the woman, a video of the night in question has been doing the rounds on Chinese social media. The silent video is edited out of security footage outside the woman's house where the alleged rape took place. In it, the woman can be seen walking in, arm-in-arm with Liu and then entreating him to come up to her room. While the woman, in her police complaints, had maintained that Liu forced her into having intercourse with her, the video makes her appear as a consensual party, in fact, a gold-digger, who invited Liu to her apartment to have an affair with him, purportedly for money.

According to a report in New York Times, public opinion in China has started to swing in favour of Liu since the appearance of the video, which appeared with the caption, "Proof of a Gold Digger Trap?". However, another interesting outcome to rise out of the video is the conversation a bout victim shaming and rape culture. Not all in China have fallen into the video's trap, especially Chinese feminists (a rarely heard of breed) who have started using hashtags such as "#NoPerfectVictim" and "#HereForUs" to counter the video as well as tackle conversations about slut-shaming.

Some have made videos depicting victims of sexual assault and harassment talking about their experiences. Others shared definitions of sexual harassment, stressing on how it could occur even in the course of a rape or between people who have intimately known each other.

According to the report in NYT, many Chinese feminists think this is the first such incident in China when people are openly discussing generally censored topics such as sexual harassment.

Chinese social media is an enigmatic giant that people outside of China know very little about. Zealous censorship clubbed with a deeply conservative and patriarchal value system has further kept voices that contribute to social discourse, pop culture and dissent China beyond earshot. But that does not mean the country has remained untouched by global phenomena.

When #MeToo spread in the Western countries, it consequently seeped in to Asian nations as well. And the way these conservative societies have reacted to the movement hold key insights into the understanding of feminism and state of feminist activism within a country's socio-political system.

Despite low visibility, feminist activism in China has taken deeper roots than ever before and social media in China - platforms like Weibo, WeChat, Toutiao and others - has been bursting with conversations about gender rights. The Chinese state has also worked hard at clamping down on dissent on social media. A study conducted by a team of researchers at Hong Kong University, found that sexual misconduct allegations and #MeToo related conversation were the most censored topics on WeChat in 2018.

But feminists are not giving up. Apart from protests on and offline within China, many Chinese feminists that live outside of China are working on creating a global network of Chinese women who can honestly speak about feminist activity on groundroots in China. They want to let the world know that women in China too are taking their first steps toward shaking off the heavy yoke of patriarchy, despite rampant censorship and state scrutiny.

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