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China #MeToo case heard in court after more than 2 years

A Chinese woman who filed a sexual misconduct lawsuit against a TV host told dozens of cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case will encourage other victims of gender violence in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints.

Zhou Xiaoxuan spoke ahead of a trial for her lawsuit, which was delayed for two years and reflects the challenges Chinese women have in pursuing sexual misconduct complaints despite the spread of the global #MeToo movement.

Zhou, 27, accuses Zhu Jun, a popular state TV host, of forcibly kissing her in 2014. She is asking for a public apology as well as 50,000 yuan ($7,600) in damages.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, second from left, walks by her supporters holding banners as she arrives at a courthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Zhou, a Chinese woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a TV host, told dozens of cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case will encourage other victims of gender violence in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

Zhu has denied the accusation and filed a defamation case against Zhou.

“Even if ultimately in this case we don’t get a legal win, as long as we can show to a lot of people (that) there are people like me, those of us who are victims of gender violence, that’s already a type of win,” Zhou said outside the Haidian District People's court in Beijing.

The movement took off in 2018 in China when a college student in Beijing publicly accused her professor of sexual misconduct.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, center, speaks to her supporters holding banners as she arrives at a courthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Zhou, a Chinese woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a TV host, told dozens of cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case will encourage other victims of gender violence in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints.(AP PhotoAndy Wong)

#MeToo global movement helped to encourage activism in China, but it came at a time when President Xi Jinping’s government is tightening controls and stamping out dissent.

Women who complain face censorship and official resistance. The movement has seen few victories, and it was only in 2019 that sexual misconduct was added to court regulations as grounds for a suit.

In a rare victory, a woman who used alias Liu Li won a case against her former boss in July. The social worker in the western city of Chengdu was required to issue a public apology but no damages were awarded.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, left, holds a banner which reads "Must Win" as she arrives at a courthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Zhou, a Chinese woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a TV host, told dozens of cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case will encourage other victims of gender violence in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

“Together, we want to demand answers from history,” read a sign held by a few dozen supporters outside the courthouse in Beijing on Wednesday. Other carried #Metoo signs.

Many yelled “jiayou,” or “add oil,” a common Chinese phrase as reassurance to Zhou, who cried after speaking.

Videographers working for foreign news agencies were taken away by police soon after Zhou gave her statement. It was unclear why they were held.

Zhou Xiaoxuan, center, walks by her supporters upon arrival at a courthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Zhou, a Chinese woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a TV host, told dozens of cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case will encourage other victims of gender violence in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

Associated Press video journalists Emily Wang and Borg Wong contributed to this report.

Zhou Xiaoxuan weeps as she speaks to her supporters upon arrival at a courthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Zhou, a Chinese woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a TV host, told dozens of cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case will encourage other victims of gender violence in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

Foreign journalists are stopped by Chinese policemen as they try to film supporters of Zhou Xiaoxuan outside a courthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. The Chinese woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a TV host told cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case encourages other "victims of gender violence" in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints.(AP PhotoAndy Wong)

Zhou Xiaoxuan, right, looks as Chinese policemen block a foreign journalist on her arrival at a courthouse in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Zhou, a Chinese woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a TV host, told cheering supporters at a courthouse Wednesday she hopes her case encourages other "victims of gender violence" in a system that gives them few options to pursue complaints.(AP PhotoAndy Wong)

Supporters of Zhou Xiaoxuan hold banners as they wait for Zhou outside at a courthouse where she is appearing in a sexual harassment case in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. A high profile case of sexual harassment in China's #MeToo movement involving a well-known Chinese state TV host will be start on Wednesday in the capital city after pending for more than two years. (AP PhotoAndy Wong)

Supporters of Zhou Xiaoxuan hold banners as they wait for Zhou outside at a courthouse where she is appearing in a sexual harassment case in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. A high profile case of sexual harassment in China's #MeToo movement involving a well-known Chinese state TV host will be start on Wednesday in the capital city after pending for more than two years. Chinese characters read, "Lets's ask for an answer in history together." (AP PhotoAndy Wong)