It was quite a beating. An official in northeast China who complained about receiving harassing messages from his boss was recorded in a video hitting him with a mop.
The action sparked a discussion about the persistence of harassment in the workplace and turned women into an internet sensation.
In the 14-minute video, the employee – later identified by her last name, Zhou – is seen throwing books in the boss’s face (identified as Wang) and splashing him with water, as well as hitting it with the mop. He is seen hiding his face behind his hands, trying to apologize and saying he was joking when he texted her.
It is not known exactly when the incident occurred, but local media said the woman filed a complaint with the police last week, accusing Wang of harassment, and the video began circulating the internet this time. week.
The footage has been viewed millions of times, with many social media users enjoying what they say is an unusual display of resistance against an authoritarian figure in a country with limited workplace protections from sexual harassment.
Many users showed their support for the woman, who received praise for shifting the balance of power and was called an advocate for justice and a martial arts warrior.
Lu Pin, a prominent Chinese feminist activist, said that many viewed the video as a vehicle for accumulated anger over the general lack of accountability of stalkers and the resources available to the courts or the police. Many victims of harassment feel powerless to speak out and fear that they will be discredited or face retaliation if they do.
“Most of the time, women are forced to remain silent because it is difficult to investigate sexual harassment,” Lu said in an interview on Tuesday (13). “This woman has stood up for herself. The fact that her behavior is getting so much attention is a reflection that there is no better way.”
Chinese state media identified the man as the deputy director of an anti-poverty agency in Beilin District in Suihua, a city in Heilongjiang Province 1,100 kilometers northeast of Beijing.
After an internal investigation revealed that he had “disciplinary problems in his life,” he was dismissed from his post under disciplinary measures from the Communist Party, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The employee was not punished and officials said she suffered from an unspecified “mental illness”. No further details were given.
Neither the man nor the woman could be reached for comment.
China passed a law in 2005 that prohibits sexual harassment and gives victims the right to file complaints against bosses. Several regulations have followed in recent years, placing the onus on employers to “avoid and suppress” sexual harassment. However, few workplaces have strong policies against this, according to Darius Longarino, a professor at the Paul Tsai Center on China at Yale Law School (in the US).
“Very few prosecutions have been brought against stalkers and even fewer have been successful,” he said. “If the case comes down to the testimony of witnesses, the court often decides that there is not enough evidence to prove that the harassment took place.”
Victims of harassment can even be prosecuted. In 2019, after a woman in the Chinese city of Chengdu filed a complaint with the police saying that she had been harassed by a colleague, he sued her. Although the case was closed, the woman had to apologize in a group of messages at work, where she had spoken of the harassment, in order to reverse the “negative effects” for her coworker.
In the video recording of the mop episode, Zhou says that Wang sent him unwanted text messages three times and that other women in the office received similar attention. We can see her and hear her make a call and accuse her boss of assault.
On the phone, she says she has already reported her actions to the police. According to local media, police said they recorded the report against the boss last week and are investigating the allegations. Government officials from Suihua and Beilin, as well as police from Beilin, did not respond to requests for comment.
Activists have called for more protections of the system in these cases.
“How can other victims who have not caught the public’s attention be helped?” Lu said. “These questions have only been raised and there are no answers.”
Zhou’s case is helped by the fact that she has a recording of the boss’s confession, Longarino said. In many situations, he said, “there is no viral video.”
Translation by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves