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Chinese police and Hainan Airlines staff tried to stop me pressing charges over sexual assault, says Hong Kong film director

Hong Kong film director Sharon Lam Suk-ching has said that a Hainan Airlines employee attempted to rape her while she was sleeping in a Hainan hotel room earlier this month. She said she was dissuaded from pressing charges by the police and the man’s superior, who told her that training pilots was expensive.

In a Weibo statement published on Monday evening, Lam said she awoke in the early morning of July 16 to find a man lying on top of her. She fought him off and the hotel staff called the police. However, she said the police did not formally set up a case file after interviewing her that day.

Sharon Lam Suk-ching

Sharon Lam Suk-ching. Photo: Youtube screenshot.

The police issued a statement on Tuesday, saying it has detained the suspect and will investigate any potential misconduct by police officers.

Lam said the perpetrator was a trainee pilot at Hainan Airlines surnamed Bai, who was dressed only in his underwear when he went to her hotel room. He entered the room by climbing from the neighbouring balcony, and later defended himself by saying he was drunk, Lam said.

“The police did not take notes or record the interview. Later, Bai’s friend and his superior at Hainan Airlines showed up [at the police station],” she said.

Sharon Lam Suk-ching statement

Lam’s statement, first published via the Weibo account of director Song Fang-jin. Photo: Weibo.

Lam was in Haikou city in Hainan province to film her television series Route. She announced in her statement that she had quit the production.

Lam said she returned to the police station on July 19 to formally file a case, but both the police and a Hainan Airlines executive argued against it.

“Bai’s boss at Hainan Airlines came to the police station and attempted to dissuade me from pressing charges, saying that the cost of training pilots is high,” Lam said. “Suddenly the police said that I had also hit Bai, and if I insist on pressing charges, they will charge me with assault as well.”

Haikou police statement

Statement by the Haikou Public Security Bureau. Photo: Weibo.

She added that she spoke out in the hopes that the parties involved would handle the matter justly and in accordance with the law. “I still have confidence in the motherland’s rule of law,” she said.

‘Inappropriate personal behaviour’

In response to growing online discussion, the Haikou Public Security Bureau issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Lam’s case was awaiting further investigation, and that Bai – identified as a 27-year-old man from Hebei province – had been detained.

It also noted the allegations against its officers, and said the matter would be seriously investigated by its internal affairs department.

Hainan Airlines issued a statement in the early hours of Tuesday confirming that the alleged perpetrator was an employee. Bai was under investigation for “inappropriate personal behaviour during off hours” and had been suspended, the statement read.

Hainan Airlines Weibo statement

A statement by the official Hainan Airlines Weibo account. Photo: Weibo screenshot.

Police handling of sexual assault and harassment cases in China have faced criticism, especially in recent cases where university students were sexually assaulted by their professors. In May, a Chinese graduate student tried to sue the police for dismissing her rape report.

According to a 2018 study conducted by the Nottingham-based China Policy Institute, reporting of sexual crimes is discouraged in China because of a “combination of a ‘blame the victim’ mentality, the lack of institutional or legal recourse, and an imbalanced and gendered power structure without appropriate constraints.”

Chinese police and Hainan Airlines staff tried to stop me pressing charges over sexual assault, says Hong Kong film director