NUS researcher levels ‘cyberbullying’ complaint against Chinese scholar accused of groping her

Former director of East Asian Institute Zheng Yongnian. Photo: CUHK
Former director of East Asian Institute Zheng Yongnian. Photo: CUHK

The woman who accused a Chinese scholar at the National University of Singapore of groping her said she has filed a cyberbullying complaint with the police.

Identifying herself only as Charlotte, she wrote to Coconuts last night accusing her former colleague Zheng Yongnian of defaming and “slut shaming” her online with the help of mainland Chinese compatriots. Charlotte said that she would take further action if necessary. 

“Since the beginning of Singapore Police Force investigation in 2019, Mr. Zheng Yong Nian via help of his close aids, overseas media partners and business partners have continuously made up and circulated defamatory posts to discredit, attack and humiliate me with ‘slut shaming,’ so as to reverse the fact and mislead the public opinion,” Charlotte wrote in her first official statement since going public with her allegations in August. 

She was likely referring to Zheng’s September release to Chinese-language media of what were presented as late-night emails filled with sweet nothings from Charlotte prior to her going to the police. “One kiss for you baby, on your small chubby face,” one read. 

“Among them are not only distorted facts and slanders from someone claimed as [East Asian Institute] colleagues and insiders, but even my archival information and photos … were leaked out and exposed online,” she added. Charlotte declined to disclose her full name.

Zheng has admitted to hugging Charlotte in 2018 but not touching her buttocks as she alleged. An email sent to Zheng on Tuesday seeking comment had not been returned as of publication time.

According to Charlotte, her complaint of Zheng’s inappropriate behavior has been spun into a political conflict with him as the victim of Sinophobia.

She highlighted an exclusive interview Zheng gave to Chinese Phoenix News in which he said he’d given his accuser a “courteous hug.” It also reported another person who claimed to be an East Asian Institute staffer saying that Charlotte had “ulterior motives” and was “backed by Taiwanese and Singaporean anti-mainland people.”

Charlotte said she didn’t regret going to the police.

“Although I have been traumatised by bullying and defamations again, I never regretted reporting Mr. Zheng Yong Nian’s offensive behaviors to the police,” she said.

“In this belief, I have reported abovementioned cyberbullying to the police and will take necessary legal actions after consulting legal opinions,” she added. 

Charlotte’s statement came a week after the National University of Singapore’s internal review concluded that Zheng behaved inappropriately on May 30, 2018, when she said that he groped her during an unwelcome embrace. The university said Zheng admitted to hugging the accuser without her consent, although it could not be established whether he’d touched her buttocks due to a lack of evidence. It also could not confirm that Zheng had placed his hand on her back while taking a group photo, or placed his hand on her shoulder and head when both of them met in his office.

In April, the police issued Zheng a warning for outrage of modesty, two years after the incident reportedly took place. Charlotte had reported Zheng to the police in May 2019, a year after the alleged incidents occurred. She said Zheng “forcefully hugged me for multiple times against my will and molested on my buttocks, which made me totally blank and frightened.”

Charlotte also shared screenshots of what appeared to be an exchange between her and Zheng in which she told him off for touching her bum that morning. He responded with an apology. 

Zheng left the university in September and is now dean of the Advanced Institute of Global and Contemporary China Studies in Shenzhen, China. He has denied that his departure from Singapore had anything to do with the investigation. He also maintained his innocence as recently as last week, telling reporters he had given Charlotte a “consolatory hug,” noting that she seemed disappointed when he said that his daughter would not be in Singapore to meet her. Charlotte responded by saying he had “distorted the facts.” 

Other stories:

NUS China scholar accused of sexual misconduct resigns

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