New York Times
Her boss sends harassment texts. So she beats him with a towel.
HONG KONG – It was a devastating sight. A government official in northeast China who complained of harassment of text messages by his boss was caught on video beating him with the business end of a mop, sparking a debate about the persistence of harassment in the workplace and turning it into an internet sensation. In the 1
4-minute video, the woman, later identified by her last name Zhou, could see books being thrown in the face of her boss, identified as Wang, and pouring water on him in addition to hitting him with a mop. He appears to be hiding his face behind his fingers, trying to apologize, and says he was joking when he sent the messages. Sign up for The Morning Newsletter from the New York Times. It is not clear when exactly the incident happened, but local news agencies say the woman filed a police report last week, accusing Wang of harassment, and the video began circulating widely online this week. It has been viewed millions of times, with many social media users enjoying what they see as an unusual display of resistance to authority in a country with limited protection in the workplace against sexual harassment. Many consumers have sided with the woman, praising her for upsetting the balance of power and calling her a defender of justice and a martial arts warrior. Lu Ping, a well-known Chinese feminist activist, said many people see the video as a way out of restrained anger due to a general lack of accountability for harassers and access to courts or police. Many victims of harassment feel powerless to report it and worry that they will be deprived of faith or will be avenged if they do. “Most of the time, women are forced to remain silent because sexual harassment is difficult to investigate,” Lou said in an interview Tuesday. “This woman took matters into her own hands to protect herself; that her behavior is gaining so much attention is a reflection that there are no better ways. Chinese state media have identified the man as deputy director of a government poverty reduction agency in the Beilin district of Suihua, a city in Heilongjiang province. in accordance with the Communist Party’s disciplinary measures, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. China introduced a law banning sexual harassment and giving victims the right to complain to their employers in 2005. A number of regulations have followed in recent years, requiring employers to “prevent and limit sexual harassment.” adopted strict policies against him, said Darius Longarino, a senior associate at the resort the Italian Paul Tsai Center at Yale Law School. “Very few lawsuits have been filed against bullies, and there are still fewer successful ones,” Longarino said in an interview. “If the case is limited to witness accounts, the court often rules that there is not enough evidence to prove that harassment has taken place.” Victims of harassment may even be the subject of the cases themselves. In 2019, after a woman in the Chinese city of Chengdu filed a police report stating that she had been harassed by a colleague, the colleague sued. Although the lawsuit was largely dismissed, the woman was ordered to apologize by the court to a chat working group where she had discussed harassment to undo the “adverse consequences” for her colleague. In videos of the mop episode, Zhou says Wang sent her unsolicited text messages three times and that others in the office received similar unsolicited attention. She can be seen and heard calling and accusing her boss of assault. As she spoke on the phone, she said she had already reported his actions to the police. According to local news, police said they registered her report against her boss last week and investigated her allegations. Government services in the city of Suihua and Bailin district, as well as the district police in Bailin, did not respond to requests for comment. Activists have called for more protection from the system for such cases. “How can more victims who have not attracted public attention be supported?” Lou said. “These questions have only been raised and there are no answers.” Zhou’s case is aided by the fact that she has a record of her boss’s confessions, Longarino said. In many situations, he said, “there is no viral video.” This article first appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company