Former NUS East Asian Institute director denies sexual harassment allegations; university investigating

Former director of the National University of Singapore East Asian Institute Zheng Yongnian has been accused of sexual harassment.
Former director of the National University of Singapore East Asian Institute Zheng Yongnian has been accused of sexual harassment.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A former director of the National University of Singapore (NUS) East Asian Institute (EAI) has denied all claims of sexual harassment levelled against him by his former staff as the university continues to investigate the allegations.

Multiple harassment claims had appeared on social media in the past month, with at least two users - who identified themselves as NUS or EAI staff - accusing Professor Zheng Yongnian of sexual harassment.

However, Prof Zheng "categorically denies" all allegations, whether by EAI staff or any other persons, his lawyers said in a press statement on Friday (Sept 4) evening.

They also said that the professor's resignation from the university and EAI was unrelated to the allegations and complaint against him. Instead, they said he had accepted a new post that "allows him to focus more on research as a scholar, where his passions lie".

The 58-year-old professor is understood to have joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, as the head of its Advanced Institute of Global and Contemporary China Studies by late August.

The allegations appeared on social media earlier that month. In posts on Twitter, a user who identified herself as a current EAI employee, said she had filed a police report in May 2019 after being sexually harassed by Prof Zheng in May 2018. She also said that she was subsequently bullied by institute staff when she lodged a complaint with the university.

The police and an NUS spokesman confirmed that a report was lodged. Police said they administered a stern warning for outrage of modesty in April in the case and this was done in consultation with the Attorney-General's Chambers.

The NUS spokesman said the university followed up on the case with an internal investigation. The spokesman also added that NUS found that another employee had filed a police report against Prof Zheng over an incident that took place in 2012.

However, this case was closed by the police without any further action, and the employee left the institute after her contract expired, said the spokesman.


She did not lodge a complaint regarding Prof Zheng with the institute, said the spokesman.

"All allegations of sexual misconduct are taken seriously and internal investigations are conducted to look into allegations with priority," said the spokesman, adding that the university pays special attention to affected staff and will not tolerate any bullying.

In the press statement on Friday, Prof Zheng's lawyers said that the warning issued by the police to their client "does not amount to a pronouncement of guilt or finding of fact".

"Professor Zheng has lent and continues to lend his utmost cooperation in the ongoing investigations by NUS. As the outcome is presently pending, it is not appropriate at this juncture to comment further," said the lawyers.

They noted that the professor is "presently considering his legal options".