NUS China scholar accused of sexual misconduct resigns

Research professor Zheng Yongnian. Photo: East Asian Institute
Research professor Zheng Yongnian. Photo: East Asian Institute

A research professor from the National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute has resigned amid allegations he sexually mistreated a colleague.

Research professor Zheng Yongnian, the former director of a think tank focused on China’s politics and economy, was accused of sexual harassment by a staff member identified only as “Charlotte” on Twitter. The university told Coconuts Singapore yesterday that Zheng had already resigned from the university and research institute, and has been granted leave until his contract expires later this month. It did not say whether that leave was paid.

It added that an internal investigation was underway, and that a police investigation related to some of the allegations, which included harassment of multiple employees, “has been completed.”

“We have taken note of the postings on social media of wide-ranging allegations with regard to the East Asian Institute and some of its current and former staff members.

Professor Zheng Yongnian has resigned from the East Asian Institute and NUS, and he has been granted leave until the expiry of his contract later this month,” its statement read, adding that it takes such allegations “very seriously” and was supporting affected staff.

Zheng is still listed as a research professor on the East Asian Institute’s website, which also states that he studied at Beijing and Princeton universities. 

Last month, Twitter user Charlotte wrote that she was sexually harassed by Zheng in 2018 and had reported him to the police. She said that investigation ended with Zheng being given “a warning for offence for Outrage of Modesty.”

Attempts to reach Charlotte were unsuccessful as of publication time.

She did not detail the alleged offenses but described experiencing ongoing trauma.

“Everyday, I feel like trapped in black hole with deep exhaustion, frightening and desperation. I really don’t know how to get out of this and whom I could ask for help,” she said in her Aug. 7 Twitter thread. 

Charlotte also accused the university of mishandling her complaint. She said that she was given a “soft warning” from university and institute management and told to “stay away from female colleagues who were also harassed.” The university did not address those allegations in its statement.

Neither Zheng nor the police had responded to Coconuts Singapore’s requests for comment as of publication time.

Zheng succeeded American political scientist Dali Yang as the director of the East Asian Institute in 2008 before being replaced by Bert Hofman, a former World Bank country director for China, in 2019. 

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