A Hebei official’s claim that a woman was not attractive enough to be raped has sparked a storm of criticism on Chinese social media.

46-year-old Ms. Fu accused her village’s party secretary, surnamed Cui, of raping her on three occasions between 2014-2015. She reported the alleged events in 2016 to the local discipline inspection commission, responsible for examining the conduct of officials. But the case was transferred to the party’s local neighbourhood office.

File Photo: Pxhere.

When contacted by reporters from independent media outlet Dabaixinwen, the head of the office dismissed the allegations. His comments in the article published on Friday sparked a storm of online criticism.

Secretary Hao, who decided not to investigate Cui after speaking several times with his accuser, told the outlet: “Cui was over 50 years old at the time, you haven’t seen this female comrade – I can’t say she’s unbearably ugly, but she does not have the looks by far, to stimulate any desire.”

He added that Hebei required politicians to govern with integrity and that they would not protect a branch secretary.

“The real situation is not as Ms. Fu said – she is purposely trying to damage another with no regard to her own reputation.”

Cui, the accused village official denied the rape accusations, telling Dabaixinwen that he was being framed.

‘Power and interest’

In response to the story, a post on the Renqiu city party commission’s official WeChat account said on Saturday that the city’s discipline commission was investigating the officials involved and that the police are investigating Fu’s allegations.

One Weibo commenter said: “This is not something that a subdistrict office secretary should say, shouldn’t he speak based on evidence? What the heck does it have to do with attractiveness? Old ladies get sexually assaulted too – does it have to do with attractiveness?”

Others agreed, asking whether Hao was saying that the village secretary would readily rape attractive women: “Investigate this seriously! Don’t let [these officials] cause the party and the country to lose face.”

Another wrote: “Village secretaries can cover up anything, no one in the village dares cross them.”

However, some said they believed Hao, saying his candidness made him trustworthy. Still others posted comments attacking the woman: “A 50-year-old woman from a farming village. Who would be interested in that?”

Chinese feminist activist Lü Pin told HKFP that blaming, insulting and casting suspicion upon on victims of sexual assault is common in China.

“In this case, the secretary and the [alleged] attacker are actually linked by power and interest. So for him, using that convenient patriarchal language to attack the victim was a way to protect the people of power within his circle.”

“But now, the public are very savvy towards these tactics to shame victims and can clearly recognise that they are a sign of officials covering for each other,” she said.

Lü added that it was important for the official’s words to be exposed, but said it was regrettable that only lowly officials, and not those in core positions of power, are currently able to be held accountable.

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.