On the morning of August 10th, Liu Li and Xiao Xing (pseudonyms) went to the petition reception office of a court hall in Chengdu. They wanted to sue Liu Meng, the chairman of the ONE DAY FOR Social Service Center (一天公益社会工作服务中心), for sexual assault and “abuse of authority”. Waiting in line, their papers in hand, Liu Li and Xiao Xing worried that their lawsuit would not be accepted. To their surprise, unlike most sexual harassment cases, their case was successfully placed on file by the court.
Similarly to other victims who came out during the recent #MeToo campaign that shook China’s charity sector, Liu Li and Xiao Xing’s anxiety primarily came from Liu Meng’s fame within the sector. Once honoured as “the volunteer who held fast to the frontline for the longest” during the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, Liu is today a renowned leader in the field of social work.
On an evening in 2014, keeping Liu’s reputation in mind, Xiao Xing did not give it a second thought when Liu hugged her in ONE DAY FOR’s office. The office was located in an apartment, and the bedrooms were turned into dorms for the staff. Xiao Xing was one of the social workers who worked and lived there. However, the hug was followed by kissing and then rape. “I kept saying ‘Professor Liu, don’t do this, please let me go,’ but he didn’t say a word during the entire process”, the woman recalls.
Xiao Xing considered going to the police, but Liu’s prestige in the public welfare sector frightened her. “He is so renowned and has a good relationship with the local government. What would happen to my career as a social worker, when the entire sector is filled with his ‘brothers?’”, as Xiao Xing says. She also thought about her parents and decided to tell no one what she had gone through.
From 2014 to 2015, however, Liu Meng forced her to have sex with him for several more times, sometimes in the middle of the night, when she was already asleep. She tried to move out to live with friends, but Liu and Li Suqing, the secretary general of ONE DAY FOR, criticized her for “lacking consideration for the community.” Xiao Xing reveals that she felt useless. “I hated it, but couldn’t say no.”
In 2015, Xiao Xing eventually found an excuse to work in another duty station, but she began to be bothered by depression. She became unable to control her emotions and work properly. At the end of 2016, Liu Meng sexually harassed her one more time. This time, Xiao Xing chose to leave.
Liu Li experienced similar inappropriate touching initiated by a hug. What went differently was that she told the whole story to Xiao Xing, her colleague and friend at the time, in 2015. Xiao Xing did not reveal her own experience to Liu Li, but she warned her to stay away from Liu Meng. Under the advice of Xiao Xing, Liu Li revealed Liu Meng’s misconduct to Li Suqing, the secretary general, instead of going to the police. But Li Suqing considered it to simply be a “misunderstanding”.
Two weeks ago, encouraged by the #MeToo campaign, Liu Li sent out an open letter online accusing Liu Meng of harassment. Shortly afterwards, Liu Meng sent a private message of one sentence apologizing to Liu Li on WeChat. Unexpectedly, Xiao Xing also received a similar message. But this time, instead of just accepting the apology silently and avoiding what had happened, she decided to come out to the public along with Liu Li. “If I keep avoiding this, I will become his accomplice,” said Xiao Xing.
A few days ago, Women Awakening and another WeChat platform that has been reporting on the accusations against Liu Meng received letters from his attorney asking them to delete their “untrue reports” and apologize to him.
Two days ago the Yinxing Foundation, which incorporated Liu Meng in its “Yinxing Companion” training project from 2011 to 2014, sent out a public letter regarding the scandal. The foundation claimed that it will forbid Liu from using his entitlement as a “Yinxing Companion” and participating in any events of the Yinxing community. The letter also said that the foundation supports the disadvantaged and wishes to see just adjudication from the judiciary.
Another noteworthy fact in Liu Meng’s case is that he was also once the secretary general of the Sichuan Women’s Development Foundation. The fact that even an institution supposed to be working for the empowerment of women was at one time directed by a man now accused of sexual misdeeds is testament to the scale of the problem.