Singapore—Zheng Yongnian, a writer, professor and former Director at the East Asian Institute (EAI) of the National University of Singapore, tendered his resignation from the institute following accusations of sexual harassment on social media in August. Professor Zheng is currently on leave until the end of his contract later this month.
On August 7, a Twitter user known as Charlotte (@Chary19513), who identified herself as a “current staff at East Asian Institute,” wrote a thread saying she had been sexually harassed by Professor Zheng two years ago.
I am Charlotte, current staff at East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. I was sexually harassed by former Director Zheng Yongnian in 2018. I reported to the police and Zheng was administrated with a warning for offence of Outrage of Modesty after investigation.
— Chary (@Chary19513) August 7, 2020
In a series of tweets, she wrote that she had reported the incident to the police, and then after the investigation, Professor Zheng was given a warning for the offence of outrage of modesty.
And while she was grateful for all who had supported her, she added that the management of NUS and EAI had issued a “soft warning” to her and that she had been “admonished” by EAI not to talk with other female colleagues “who were also harassed.”
She wrote that she felt “totally controlled” by the institute at work and in her personal life, and that she suffered “bullying and retaliations” from the EAI.
Charlotte added, “For past decade, predator Zheng Yongnian has never stopped but EAI management pretend not to know. It’s ironically (sic) that harasser is also institute management. It seemed that any victim reported to EAI management will be bullied and then expelled from the institute in retaliation.”
She then expressed the helplessness, exhaustion, fear and desperation that she felt, adding that she did not know who to turn to, but tagging groups such as @UN_Women, @SexAssaultAware, @NOMOREorg, @TheJHF and even @worlduniranking, as well as media outlets @timeshighered, @chronicle, and @washingtonpost.
Until now, there remain covering up and bullying within EAI. 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…
— Chary (@Chary19513) August 7, 2020
Coconuts Singapore reported the EAI as saying the matter is under an internal investigation, but that the police investigation into the harassment of the accuser’s colleagues has been completed.
A statement from the East Asian Institute says that the allegations concerning Professor Zheng had been taken seriously.
“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.”
The professor, age 58, who also writes for the website ThinkChina, was born in Yuyao, Zhejiang, China, is a well-respected political scientist and commentator on China’s transformation and its external relations. He is also an editor for Zaobao in Singapore and Xinbao in China.
Professor Zheng served as the director of EAI from 2008 to 2019. After stepping down as director, he stayed on as a research professor, telling The Straits Times that he resigned so that he could continue conducting scholarly research, which he says is his passion. According to the South China Morning Post, for which he is a contributor as well, he now helms global and contemporary China studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.—/TISG