The Me Too movement has become one of the biggest phenomenons this century, with women across the globe voicing their stories of sexual assault and men being brought to account for their actions.
Started by American Tarana Burke, the Me Too movement has been accepted widely as a good thing. It has seen the likes of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein behind bars and a long list of others around the globe get their comeuppance for the wrongs they had committed against women.
Yet as the movement spread around the globe, some nations have been less than accommodating towards the words and voices of the women fighting back.
One country that has especially looked to suppress the stories which have spawned out of the movement is China.
As the stories and posts mounted within the People’s Republic, with famous CCTV presenters accused and other notable figures tarnished, the Chinese government looked to put a stop to it.
Government officials began to censor the hashtags associated with the movement on various Chinese social media platforms. They started by blocking woyeshi, then #MeToo and the “rice bunny” image which followed.
Peking University Scandal Cover-Up
The most notable case of this censorship and perhaps the biggest story coming from China’s Me Too movement is the Peking University scandal.
After the Me Too movement began to gain traction across the nations with numerous women sharing their stories, students at Peking University began campaigning in 2018 for investigations into the case of Gao Yan (高岩).
Gao was a former student at the University but had commit suicide whilst studying in 1998 after filing a complaint against a Professor who she said had sexually assaulted her. Yet, since her death, the Professor had remained at the faculty and continued teaching, receiving only minor punishment.
Inspired by a letter from one of Gao’s friend named Li Youyou (李悠悠), who called out the Professor called Shen Yang (沈阳) by name, brave activists filed for an information request regarding the case.
Frustrated by her universities response, activist Yue Xin (岳昕) wrote an open letter to Peking University on April 23rd, calling out the school for pressuring her to halt efforts for Gao’s justice. This open letter was also rapidly censored once posted online.
However, this time the growing activists online did not want the letter to be hidden. Reposts would put the image upside down and code names were made but censors could still block access. This changed when one activist started using blockchain.
On the same day as the letter was posted, one user decided that Ethereum blockchain would be the perfect storage place away from the control of the government. The user sent zero Ethereum to themselves and cleverly put the text of the letter in the Input data. As all Ethereum transactions are public, the text is now there for the whole public to see.
This is not the first case of the Me Too movement in China using blockchain. “Every Snowflake.” was a blockchain ledger which allowed users to collate their sexual harassment stories.
Outside of China, other sexual harassment activists have been using blockchain. In India, an app called Smashboard looks to help sexual assault victims and uses blockchain to do it. The app has various features like mental health advice and journal logs so reporting sexual assault is made easier, as well as links to Journalists if they want to reveal their abuser.
Blockchain is used so that victims can track their story and have indelible timestamps so that they can use this when conversing with the police and judicial authorities in the future. The company also has plans to launch a Smashboard cryptocurrency to fight the patriarchal society.
Me Too: A long road to acceptance in China
However, how much these small sparks of resistance and activism help, especially in the case of China remains to be seen. ‘The Great Chinese Firewall’ which pervades across the internet could block access to certain sites, meaning having them on a blockchain could be futile.
This information control is a problem for activists across the nation and with any voices of dissent quickly silenced, it is hard to see a movement like Me Too succeeding. A feeling only made greater when the stories of activists in China are told.
Since her letter to the Peking University authorities, activist Yue Xin has been missing for attempting to unionise the workforce in Shenzhen.
Her family has not seen her since authorities took her in January 2019 except for a video of a confession which she appeared in alongside fellow Peking University graduate Gu Jiayue (顾佳悦), Nanjing Agricultural University graduate Zheng Yongming (郑永明) and Sun Yat-sen University graduate Shen Mengyu (沈梦雨).
Clearly, there is a long way to go for China and its Me Too movement. Yet, with the positive influence of new technologies, perhaps this situation could change. Although the current outlook is bleak, if more selfless heroes like Yue Xin drive us to be better, then there is still hope.