The past week has been a disconcerting one for the Chinese nonprofit sector. After last Monday’s accusation of sexual assault against Lei Chuang, a well-known activist for the rights of hepatitis B carriers, many other women and men within the sector have come out with their own stories of being sexually harassed. This explosion of accusations then led to an avalanche of similar scandals in many other industries, snowballing into a larger Chinese #MeToo movement which has already eclipsed last January’s campaign centered around the country’s universities. Below we summarize some of the major scandals that have hit the nonprofit sector over the past week.
July 20th: Yuan Tianpeng, renowned lecturer
The Lei Chuang incident drew public attention to another anonymous letter published three days earlier. In the letter, an anonymous victim accused Yuan Tianpeng, the only Chinese member of the American National Association of Parliamentarians, of attempting to sexually harass her during a training sessions in 2012 or 2013. Yuan has conducted many training sessions for Chinese non-profits on the rules of debate and deliberation.
The victim wrote in the letter that she was in charge of driving Yuan to the hotel which hosted the training session, when Yuan began to verbally assault her in the car. She was in a state of alert but still did not dare resist until he pushed her on to the bed in the hotel room. Even though she got away, she describes Yuan’s attempt as disgusting and angering. She also commented on how ironic it is that this man should be associated with an expertise on democratic parliamentary procedure.
Yuan has not yet publicly responded to the accusation.
July 23rd: Lei Chuang, founder of Yiyou Charity Center
The accusation against Lei Chuang last Monday was what set everything in motion.
During an interview later in the week, the victim responded to Lei’s claim that they were in a relationship. She told the interviewer that even though she thought that continuing the relationship might be the only way to rationalize the harassment, she only met Lei three times afterwards and there was never a healthy relationship between them.
Following the first victim’s story, another participant of Lei’s hiking trip also anonymously accused him online shortly after.
Beijing’s police have declared that they are currently verifying the claims against Lei Chuang.
July 23rd, Feng Yongfeng, founder of the “Nature University” and Guangming Daily reporter
The same day when Lei’s incident shocked the nonprofit world and social media, another famous figure in the sector, Feng Yongfeng, was accused of rape, violence, and even making threats of murder.
Known as “Principal Feng” by many people in the non-profit sector, Feng is the founder of the “Nature University” virtual environmental protection learning platform and Green Beagle, an NGO dedicated to monitoring environmental data and raising public awareness.
On Monday, an anonymous male staff member from Feng’s organization posted a letter online and revealed how Feng sexually assaulted numerous women in several public welfare organizations over the years. Feng is said to have turned “every monthly meeting into a date” and to have gone to a female colleague’s home at night with a knife after she publicly asked him to apologize for his sexual misconduct during a meeting. The author also quoted Feng as claiming that “you can hug any woman you wish as long as your environmental protection career is successful.”
On the following day, in response, Feng sent out a public letter. He attributes his misconduct to alcohol and explains that he easily loses control and becomes aggressive after drinking. He promised to quit drinking and asked for forgiveness.
The nonprofit sector and the public are in general unsatisfied with Feng’s excuse. The Narada Foundation, after investigating a female staff member’s account of being sexually assaulted by Feng in October 2017, announced on Tuesday that the foundation has decided to withdraw all the funding for Feng and to forbid him from attending any of its events. Feng is also said to have submitted a letter of apology to the victim under third-party intervention.
July 24th, Zhang Jinxiong, HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ activist and founder of Rainbow China
The very next day, another public letter released three testimonies accusing Zhang Jinxiong, an HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ activist, of sexually assaulting other men after his talking events.
Later in the day a series of screenshots was posted. The screenshots show Zhang, a Hong Kong resident, asking his lawyer on WeChat whether sexual harassment between men has been defined in the law of Mainland China, and explaining to the homosexual community on social media that the “flamboyant culture” among homosexuals is not equivalent to sexual misconduct.
A few more victims spoke out after Zhang’s light-hearted response. The LGBTQ Welfare Platform later sent out a letter, saying that Zhang is no longer welcomed to participate in the platform’s events until he considers responding to the accusations sincerely.
Zhou Fei, a high-level staff member of WWF China
In another letter, a previous World Wildlife Fund employee wrote about how Zhou Fei, a high-level staff member of WWF China, kissed her against her will during a business trip to Xishuangbanna. Zhou is said to have continued emotionally pestering her afterwards until she begged him to “please let me go” and quit her job. The victim also blamed WWF’s ineffective investigation and unwillingness to provide her with a fair solution.
On July 25th, WWF China released an official announcement. Even though the organization emphasizes that it has a comprehensive employee protection mechanism, it claims that after three months of investigation, the evidence for the Xishuangbanna incident is found to be insufficient. WWF also said that it cannot publish the investigation’s report due to the will of the victim.
July 27th, Deng Fei, founder of Free Lunch for Children
After controversially supporting Lei Chuang and justifying Lei’s misconducts on Weibo, Deng Fei, the founder of the Free Lunch for Children project, was also accused of sexual misconduct today. Several victims wrote testimonials on how Deng inappropriately touched, kissed, or attempted to have sex with them against their will.
From the charity sector to a nationwide #MeToo campaign
As already mentioned, the Lei Chuang incident not only sparked a series of scandals in the nonprofit sector, but also a raft of accusations against personalities in the media, higher education and many other sectors. Renowned public intellectual Zhang Wen, famous Chinese TV presenter Zhu Jun, vice-president of the Communication University of China Cai Xiang, and many other public figures were all accused of sexual harassment this week.
The campaign, has also initiated much reflection and discussion among academics about the rape culture, conventions surrounding women, and the social context in China.