University professor suspended over sexual misconduct allegations

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A professor at Beihang University has been suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct against several female students.

On the first day of the new year Luo Xixi, a former Ph.D student at Beihang University from 2004 to 2011 who currently lives in the US, posted an article on Weibo claiming that she and at least five other girls were sexually harassed by her deputy supervisor Chen Xiaowu, a renowned professor and Cheung Kong Scholar.

In the post, Luo said that Chen took her to his sister’s apartment on an afternoon twelve years ago, under the pretext of tending to the flowers while his sister was abroad. Soon after they entered the apartment, Chen locked the door and attempted to force himself upon her. He hesitated when Luo said she was still a virgin, and he finally gave up as she couldn’t stop crying. The professor exhorted her not to tell anyone about this incident and started to bully her in school afterwards. The alleged victim claims she suffered from deep depression during her years under Chen’s supervision.

The official Weibo account of Beihang University responded at the end of the day, stating that the university has already formed an ad hoc team to investigate the allegation and Chen has been suspended.

According to Luo’s statement her story was first told on Zhihu, a Chinese Q&A platform, on October 15, after Luo had seen the post of another student exposing Chen’s misdoings two days previously. Empowered by the #Metoo campaign, an online movement launched to encourage women to speak out about sexual harassment experiences, she decided to stand up and fight back.

“Years later I feel very sorry for not coming forward for the sake of a degree, and if I had done there would have been no more victims. I was probably the first victim of (Chen’s) sexual harassment. To fellow girls, I owe you a late apology,” wrote Luo in the post.

A few days after her post on Zhihu she found several other girls who said that they had been harassed by Chen, and also obtained a third-party testimony demonstrating that Chen had borrowed money to deal with the pregnancy of one female student that was suspectedly caused by him. With all the evidence she had, the doctoral graduate soon reported Chen’s misbehaviour to the Discipline Inspection Commission of Beihang University.

However, things did not show an upturn. According to Luo the posts accusing Chen on Zhihu were mostly deleted, which the university claimed to be Chen’s own act, and one girl began to receive threatening calls from the alleged wrongdoer.

The accusations this Monday soon acted like a stone tossed in the water, raising huge ripples on China’s social media. By the end of Tuesday #ProfessoratBeihangUniversityAccusedofSexualHarassment (北航教授被指性骚扰) became a trending topic on Weibo with more than 4 millions reads, and Luo’s post received more than 3.5 million views. With the famous Alyosha case involving sexual assault by a professor at Beijing Film Academy last year ending without any results, internet users called for justice. “Please do not let this end without a result”, read a comment by a Weibo user nicknamed Kevin君格君格Durant that received 1,461 likes.

According to research by NGOCN, a Guangzhou-based platform for NGOs, there have been 13 cases of sexual harassment exposed in universities over the past four years, of which one third faded from the public eye without any followup.

Responding to Luo’s accusation, Chen told Beijing Youth Daily on Monday that he has done nothing to violate the laws and regulations. In the face of Chen’s statement, Luo posted another article on Tuesday, in which she listed the testimonies of other insiders and brought up a recording of one man who she claims to be Chen saying “be my mistress” to one of the alleged victims.

“I question Chen Xiaowu: there are testimonies, there are recordings, and there is third party proof of the existence of the pregnant girl; this is already a very strong chain of evidence” writes Luo, “do you still dare to say that you didn’t violate the laws and regulations?”

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