Beihang University has fired Professor Chen Xiaowu after an internal investigation found that he had sexually harassed students.

Chen was suspended last week by the Beijing-based university while the school investigated allegations made against him by a former student.

A former doctoral student of Chen, Luo Xixi, posted a Weibo article on January 1 accusing him of sexually harassing her and several other students. Chen has denied the accusations.

beihang university
Beihang University. Photo: Beihang University.

The school announced on Weibo Thursday night that its investigation found that Chen had sexually harassed students. It said that it had removed him from his positions at the university.

“Chen Xiaowu’s actions seriously violated the professional ethics and conduct of a teacher, and created a bad influence on society.”

It added that it insists on a “zero-tolerance” attitude towards misconduct by teachers, and that it would form relevant guidelines and strengthen mechanisms to improve morality.

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.

After reaching out to others who also said they had experienced harassment at Chen’s hands, Luo sent the school and her lawyer evidence including audio recordings made by a victim.

“It’s the kind of ‘liking’ that’s between a teacher and a student – at the same time it’s the kind of ‘liking’ that’s between a man and a woman,” a man can be heard saying in one recording posted on the anti-sexual harassment platform ATSH.

beihang university
Beihang University. Photo: Wikicommons.

Luo went public with her article with the help of the platform. ATSH also ran a campaign calling on Beihang to implement a “prevention and response mechanism” for sexual harassment, accruing over 3,000 signatures before the petition was taken down by WeChat for “violating regulations.”

In response to the allegations, Chen told the Beijing Youth Daily last 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.

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.