Sexual harassment isn’t an often-heard accusation in China, partly because the lack of relevant laws and partly because sex, or sexual harassment, is still somewhat a taboo topic in the society. But a recent Weibo post by netizen 97-3班牛 has brought the discussion of sexual harassment in schools to a national level.
Profile picture of 97-3班牛. According the information provided on Sina Weibo, he is now living in the US.
“Zhang Datong [a typical Chinese male name], teacher of physics at East China Normal University Second Affiliated Middle School. Zhang numerously used the excuse of “body checkup” to harass male students at the school, acting against the virtues of a teacher. As victims at the time and insiders who know the matter, we decided to break our silence and testify to the case using our real names.”
Several of his schoolmates at the time joined him and shared their versions of the story.
zhenhaowu:” I’m one of the victims. It [being harassed by a male teacher] has troubled and embarrassed me for all my high school years. 15 years later, I already learned not to be influenced by it. But when I see my own kid grow to school age and when I see increasing news about unethical teachers, I come to the realization that such issues [sexual harassment in schools] won’t disappear just because I learned to forget. Now I wish that by breaking my silence, I can draw people’s attention to this kind of social problems. Graduated in 1997, Class 3, Wu Zhenlu.”
PinxiangLi: “I was ignorant at the time so I chose to speak nothing about it. Now that I’m a father myself. When the thought comes to me that my son may go through the same thing, I couldn’t repress the fury and sense of responsibility inside me. I am proud of the 7 years at the school, but I wish the case can draw attention from school authorities and the society. Don’t let junior fellow students and our own kids experience the same trauma. Graduated in 1997, Li Pinxiang.”
永远的_星矢_: “The authority of a teacher, the neglection of parents and the crave for a gold medal (in physics competitions) made me telling myself that [being sexually harassed] was what I had to endure to be successful. Until one day, I learned about the truth from other student victims. All was but a true lie. But our [the victims] mutual understanding and our support and encouragement to each other helped us to weather through that unforgettable young period and last till the current day. Years have gone by, I learned to forgive. I speak out the truth today only to tell all male students at the school that they need to be strong. Your hearts know my heart. Graduated in 1997, Class 3, Chen Xida.”
97-3班牛 also continued his story; “I’m a victim. For many years I’ve been wondering how many fellow male students have had the same experience as I did in the past 15 years. Every time, I allowed myself to be a coward by telling myself that “He may not teach classes and have direct contact with students any more” or that “He is old and about to retire.” Now I’m a father myself. Facing my own son at school age, I feel so ashamed. Today, I stand up because there is still virtue, however little of it, left in my heart. Graduated in 1997 Liu Yidong.”
Who is this Zhang Datong exactly? According to a report by China Newsweek, Zhang Datong was born in 1948 and graduated from East China Normal University. He is a special grade master teacher in physics, member of Shanghai Gaokao team since 1998, responsible for drafting Gaokao exam questions. He’s also the Vice President of the middle school. Since 1991, his students have won 7 gold medals in International Middle-school Physics Olympiad; 12 have been admitted to China’s national Physics Olympiad team; 24 have won national first or second prizes [in physics competitions], over 100 have won Shanghai first prizes. Students call him “the legend of all legends.”
But this legendary physics teacher is a demon for many who used to receive “special coaching” from him. As YanfengChen described; “In those years, he was a legend. With his special coaching, I thought I could create a brighter future. I thought the “intimate contacts” after coaching were a demonstration of care from a teacher. “Special coaching” continued, I started to doubt and fear….In the end, I failed to create a brighter future and he remained a legend. Years have passed, it wasn’t until I became a father myself did I summon enough courage to stand up. It may be too late. But may be not. Hope this long overdue courage can protect our future.”
In addition to victims, many of 97-3班牛‘s schoolmates at the time also came to confirm the authenticity of the case. What’s more, they also revealed that these men graduated in 1997 were not the only victims of Zhang Datong. The crime never stopped.
On June 29, the official Weibo account of the middle school in question announced that Zhang was removed from his teaching position due to “violating ethics of the teaching profession.” The school’s board members are also in discussion to remove him from the position of school Vice President.
Announcement made by the middle school. The school was founded in 1958 and is a prestigious middle school in Shanghai
But netizens don’t seem to be satisfied by the resolution. Many thought what Zhang has done was a “crime” and firing him was far from enough. 脫線娃娃 commented:” So this is it? Firing him from the school? This is a naked crime.” 当代资深女屌丝黄小嗡V: “So the story ends with laying him off? No formal charges against him? He will probably soon be hired by another school with a generous offer.”
Very unfortunately, China only officially outlawed sexual harassment and domestic violence in 2005 and the primary target is female victim. Regulations protecting men from sexual harassment or even rape are still very much lacking.