The Los Angeles Times has suspended its Beijing bureau chief Jonathan Kaiman after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a fellow journalist formerly based in the city.

The paper said in a report on Tuesday that it had suspended Kaiman and launched an investigation into the allegation made by former Wall Street Journal editor and former Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez.

The LA Times’ editor in chief, Jim Kirk, said the paper “takes these accusations seriously and is investigating.”

jon jonathan kaiman china journalist
Jonathan Kaiman. Photo: Climate Desk, YouTube screenshot.

Kaiman stepped down as the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) president in January following another allegation of sexual misconduct.

‘Crossed the line’

On Tuesday, Sonmez detailed an encounter she had with Kaiman in an email that she sent to the FCCC

She said the incident occurred in September last year, after they left an FCCC party together on her scooter, while they were both intoxicated: “Even though parts of the evening were consensual, while on the way, Jon escalated things in a way that crossed the line,” she wrote.

She alleged that he groped her without her consent during the journey, and when they reached his residence, he backed her against a wall and began unbuckling his belt and taking off his shorts, despite her repeated protests. She said her memory of what happened next was hazy, but she went up to his apartment, where he had unprotected sex with her.

See also: Second allegation of sexual misconduct against LA Times Beijing Bureau Chief Jon Kaiman surfaces

“I don’t remember what was going through my head as I went upstairs, whether I wanted to take a nap or get some water or maybe make out. I am certain I did not go up there to have unprotected sex with Jon.”

“I am devastated by the fact that I was not more sober so that I could say with absolute certainty whether what happened that night was rape.”

At the time, Kaiman was the FCCC president and Sonmez was a board member.

‘Proponent of women’s rights’

Kaiman has not responded to HKFP’s request for comment, but said in a statement to his employer: “All of the acts we engaged in were mutually consensual.”

“My perception and Ms. Sonmez’s perception of that night’s events differ greatly,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that, in hindsight, she feels the way she does about that night. I am a proponent of women’s rights and believe that every woman has a right to be heard and to tell her truth.”

Sonmez’s allegation came after law student Laura Tucker posted an account in January of a 2013 incident, in which she said Kaiman had pressured her into sex. Kaiman then posted an apology on his Twitter account.

Sonmez said she chose to speak out as she was dissatisfied with the FCCC board’s handling of Tucker’s allegations, and because she did not want Tucker’s experience to be dismissed as a one-off incident.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

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.