A professor at Beijing’s Beihang University has been suspended after a former student accused him of sexual harassment on social media.

The school announced on its Weibo microblog account on Monday that Chen Xiaowu had been suspended. It said a working group has been set up to investigate the allegations.

The announcement came after a former doctoral student of Chen, Luo Qianqian, posted a Weibo article on Monday accusing him of sexually harassing her and several other students. Chen has denied the accusations.

beihang university
Beihang University. Photo: Wikicommons.

Luo, who now lives in the United States, wrote that, 12 years earlier, Chen took her to his sister’s house while she was out of the country and attempted to force himself upon her. But after she began crying and pleading with him, he drove her home and told her he merely intended to test her character.

“Those few years studying under him was the nightmare of my life – because I was bullied so severely, I became depressed before I left the country,” she wrote.

Luo said that she spoke out after being inspired by the #Metoo movement in the US, and after reading articles on Zhihu – China’s version of Q&A site Quora – about the experiences of other ex-students who had been allegedly harassed by Chen.

She reached out to the victims and formed a WeChat group with them to share their experiences and collect evidence against Chen. Luo added that she had handed evidence over to the school’s discipline commission and to her lawyer – the package included a dozen audio recordings of Chen’s alleged advances made by one of the victims.

beihang sexual harassment
Alleged recordings of sexual harassment. Photo: Screenshot posted by Luo Qianqian.

In response to the allegations, Chen told the Beijing Youth Daily on Monday: “I have not done anything that is illegal or that violates discipline” and added that the public should await the results of the school’s investigation before they come to conclusions.

The problem of sexual harassment is rampant in China, with one 2015 survey by the Peking University’s School of Public Health showing over that over 30 per cent of female students had experienced sexual violence or sexual harassment. A 2009 study by two professors at Hong Kong’s City University found that 80 percent of working women in China had experienced sexual harassment at some point in their career.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.