Countries around the globe have always differed in how they handle hot-button issues. Many acknowledge that wrong has been done on an issue and provide constant updates on methods they’re using to combat the problem. Others, however, may deny a problem exists, much to the chagrin of citizens.
In the case of the People’s Republic of China, the government ameliorates its statistics so it can continue presenting itself as a superior governing body. China is well aware that it remains a Communist government well into today’s plethora of democracies. It is also well aware that its citizens understand their political situation, and that they can become restless when they see glimpses of the advantages of a democracy. For that reason, the government does everything that it can to present itself as a superior government, just so that its citizens don’t become restless – and that includes lowering statistics on hot-button issues like sexual harassment.
Chinese media tends to have a field day with the United States, highlighting and twisting our country’s problems so that life in China looks better than that in the States. One of the American controversies it has recently taken, for example, is the issue of sexual harassment. Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, China Daily ran an article, featuring guest columnist Sava Hassan, on the topic of sexual assault, called, “What prevents sexual harassment from being a common phenomenon in China, as it is in most Western societies?” The Weinstein scandal was a perfect chance for the media and government to prove that since sexual harassment was not a problem in China, the fact that the United States had such problems with the issue meant that it was an inferior country.
In the column, Hassan argued that Chinese men were taught to be protective of their women, and that “behaving inappropriately toward women, including harassing them sexually, contradicts every Chinese traditional value and custom. Chinese authority deals harshly with those who disrespect themselves by behaving inappropriately toward others.” However, this may not be the case.
On paper, this may show to be true – a survey showed that from the span of January 2013 to May 2014, only 15 sexual assault instances were reported to educational authorities. However, closer examinations of the survey reveal that, out of the 244 educational governmental bodies contacted by the group, only 19 responded, with the other 225 declining because they believed it would scare families and undermine social stability within the community.
The 15 reported cases is a far cry from the 72 cases reported to the media in the same time interval. In another survey done in 2015, it was shown that over 30 percent of college students in China had experienced sexual harassment. So why are the numbers so drastically different from one another?
If the government lowers its statistics in comparison to those of other countries, then the overall picture looks better – fewer incidents must mean that the government is better at handling and preventing sexual harassment. Both sides win: the government remains in good standing, and the citizens feel safer in the streets.
However, citizens are well aware of the injustices and failures their government has committed. “China just hides the numbers [on sexual harassment] and jails feminist activists who try to raise awareness of the issue,” @HongKongHermit wrote on Twitter.
Perhaps if the government actually aimed to make a change, there would be as much unrest as the government claims to have: none.
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