Analysis: China’s recent rape scandals are a #MeToo victory, activists say — even if the government won’t admit it
In both cases, victims had posted their allegations on Chinese social media, which sparked an online furor and prompted police to investigate. Neither Wu nor the Alibaba employee have been charged with any crime.
The authorities’ swift actions won praise from some online, who pointed to the two cases as an indication of the effective rule of law and criminal justice in China. Yet it raised eyebrows among others, who say it instead highlights how rare it is for survivors to speak out and seek justice.
“It is unsurprising that both cases have drawn such wide attention, given (Kris Wu) and Alibaba’s high profile,” said Feng Yuan, a feminist scholar and activist. “But this also serves as a reminder that for many other cases of sexual harassment and assault, if the accused are not so famous or influential, (victims) might not have their voices heard at all.”
Between 2013 and 2017, 43,000 people were prosecuted for “crimes of violating women’s personal rights,” according to the office of China’s top prosecutor. Those crimes include trafficking, rape and forced prostitution.
But there are still gaps in the law, like a lack of clear guidelines for enforcement. And the government is still reluctant to discuss sexual misconduct as a systemic problem, activists say, instead preferring to report on individual cases and cast blame elsewhere.
Their language echoes the government’s broader clampdown on the private sector, with regulators increasingly targeting businesses with fines and restrictions.
Notably absent from official rhetoric is any emphasis on what activists say are the roots of the problem: lack of support for survivors of gender-based violence and entrenched gender inequality in many aspects of society.
Part of the reason the government is so wary of acknowledging public outrage around these underlying issues is because it might encourage greater social organizing and activism, said Lv Pin, a prominent Chinese feminist now based in New York.
The government has cracked down heavily on China’s feminist movement in recent years. Famously, in 2015, five young feminists were detained over their campaign for gender equality, though they were eventually released after international outcry. Government supporters and nationalist trolls have also attacked feminist social media accounts, with some platforms removing their accounts entirely.
Neither of the alleged victims who stepped forward in both the Kris Wu and Alibaba cases alluded to #MeToo, which can easily draw censorship on social media, Feng said. “For a while, even the term ‘sexual harassment’ became a sensitive word,” she added.
However, for many activists, the two cases still offer a ray of hope — and a sign that even if the government doesn’t want to talk about sexual misconduct, the public does.
“No matter whether they call it #MeToo or not, the essence is #MeToo,” said Feng. “Although most prominent feminist social media accounts have been censored, the victims can always manage to find their own ways to speak out.”
The wave of support demonstrates how “the #MeToo movement has constantly been shaping public opinion and transforming ideas,” said Lv. “A few years ago, things like this might not even become a controversy, or they might get ignored.”
“The legal outcome of these cases is hard to say — what will happen to these cases, especially the criminal part, is hard to predict,” she added. “But in terms of public opinion, it’s a victory.”
Aerial propaganda dogfight in full force
Since its first flight a decade ago, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s J-20 stealth fighter has been touted as the pinnacle of Chinese military aviation.
But observers in the West have seen precious little of it, save for an occasional air show or military parade.
This week, however, the twin-engine jets are being showcased as the highlight of joint China-Russia military drills in China’s northwest.
The state-run Global Times said the first appearance of the J-20s in joint exercises illustrate enhanced China-Russia military cooperation in the face of security challenges in Asia, as well as “direct threats from the US and its allies.”
When the J-20 first flew a decade ago, China touted it as the answer to American F-22s and F-35s, the world’s premier stealth aircraft. And after the PLA declared it combat-ready in 2018, Chinese military expert Song Zongping, in a post on the PLA’s English-language website, said the J-20 would “engage with rivals in the future who dare to provoke China in the air.”
–By Brad Lendon
Tesla sales cratered in China
The China Passenger Car Association reported Tesla’s sales in China fell to 8,621 cars in July, down nearly 70% from June. But the export of cars built at Tesla’s Shanghai plant jumped to 24,347 for July, compared with 5,017 in June. That means total sales of Chinese-built Teslas fell less than 1% overall.
The company also faced protests by Telsa owners at this year’s Shanghai auto show over poor car quality and various safety concerns flagged by Chinese regulators.
Teslas accounted for just 3.9% of July sales of battery electric vehicles in China, down from 12.6% in June, said analyst Gordon Johnson, who has been among the harshest critics of the company. He said that decline shows Tesla is facing fiercer competition from local EV startups.
“Overall, it now seems clear that Tesla has overbuilt Chinese capacity when compared to domestic demand, which will result in further price cuts and margin pressure,” Johnson said. “Given China is supposed to be Tesla’s ‘growth market,’ these numbers should concern any Tesla bull.”
But Tesla investors seemed unfazed by the sales dip, as shares declined less than 1% Tuesday. That’s in sharp contrast to the steeper drops in the stock price following similar weak reports from the CPCA in April and May.
Unlike other automakers, Tesla does not breakdown sales by market and only reports sales quarterly, not monthly. So the numbers from the CPCA are not confirmed. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
— By Chris Isidore and Laura He
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