One of China’s most prominent English-language state newspapers published a column this week claiming their country does not have sexually abusive figures such as Harvey Weinstein because of the strength of “Chinese values.”
In an opinion piece titled “Weinstein case demonstrates cultural differences,” Sava Hassan, a “Canadian Egyptian educator,” claims that contrasting values means that a similar sexual harassment scandal would not take place in China.
“It is a well-known fact that China is a traditional society based upon commendable values and virtues that respect the dignity and humanity of its citizens, regardless of their gender,” Hassan writes. “Chinese men are taught to be protective of their women. Behaving inappropriately toward women, including harassing them sexually, contradicts every Chinese traditional value and custom.”
The piece quickly attracted outrage, especially amongst feminist activists who condemned the Chinese regime for their conservative attitudes to gender. Both the link to the piece on China Daily and the tweet on its official account advertising the piece appear to have been removed following widespread criticism.
“There’s the pervasive misogyny in Chinese society, and then add to that this huge government crackdown on feminism, so any woman who wants to come forward needs to take a huge risk,” Leta Hong Fincher, the author of a forthcoming book titled Betraying Big Brother: China’s Feminist Resistance, told The Guardian.
“There’s also state media aggressively pushing traditional gender norms, where women are supposed to play these roles of a good wife and good mother who should be preparing themselves to have babies,” Fincher added.
The German author and writer on China Christoph Rehage pointed out China’s own problems with sexual abuse. “China is still patriarchal and abuse is widespread. It’s only for a lack of transparency that the problem can be swept under the rug,” he wrote on Twitter. “Western societies have systemic sexual abuse problems and discuss them. Chinese society has the same problems but doesn’t talk about them.”
“The Chinese movie industry is full of abuse,” he continued. “Many actresses, especially the younger ones, are being treated like prostitutes.
Sophie Richardson, the China Director of Human Rights Watch, also blamed “heavy censorship” for the lack of reporting on such issues. “Heavy censorship! Reality of course is that the problem is rampant in both—all—places,” she wrote.
Chinese state media is known to make outlandish claims about life in China. In July, the outlet Global Times published an incendiary column claiming that the Chinese public “really detest US reconnaissance” in Asia and “actually wanted” authorities to shoot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane flying over Chinese territory.
In August, a report published in the state-run military newspaper People’s Liberation Army (PLA) claimed that an increasing number of young Chinese people are failing the required fitness tests to enter the military because they are “too fat and masturbate too much.”