Prosecutors drop charges against Taiwanese man accused of coercing 17-year-old French girl into sex

Prosecutors drop charges against Hsinchu Rotary Club president accused of sexually assaulting French exchange student

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Prosecutors have dropped charges against a former president of the Hsinchu chapter of Rotary Club International accused of using his position to coerce a French exchange student into a sexual relationship, reported Apple Daily.

Hsinchu District Prosecutors on Monday (April 8) decided to drop charges of sexual assault against a 40-year-old man, surnamed Chao (趙), because they believe that the 17-year-old French exchange student who pressed charges against him likely had consented to the sexual act. The young woman reportedly did not appear at the hearing.

According to an investigation by prosecutors and police, the French exchange student, who had "fair skin and a good figure" (皮膚白皙、身材姣好) last year came to Taiwan through the Rotary Youth Exchange program, according to the report. On Nov. 30, Chao, who was president of Rotary Club International at the time, invited the student to have "lunch together."

The young woman testified that she "happily agreed" to get in Chao's car, because she believed it was only a free meal. Unexpectedly, she found that Chao had instead taken her to a Wego love hotel in Hsinchu.

The student said that Chao then took off all of his clothes and he asked her to reciprocate. She said that she feared his power as leader of the organization and that her stay in Taiwan could be in jeopardy, so she reluctantly agreed to have sex with him.

The woman said that she did not dare say a word, but she did not reject his advances. She said she was "a little afraid" and after they had sex, Chao never communicated with her again.

She said that because Chao knew the chairman of the organization and was on good terms with him, she feared that if their sexual relationship had been exposed, she could face deportation to France.

Chao, on the other hand, told prosecutors that the sexual act was consensual, because the two had feelings for each other. He denied ever using his position of authority to coerce her into having sexual relations with him.

Chao argued that he only took the students to PE class once a week and coordinated with the host families and the Youth Exchange Committee.

Chao said that exchange students' studies are coordinated between a National Tsing Hua University professor and the chairman of the organization. He said their living conditions are recorded and observed by the host family and vice-chairman.

He said that exchange students may be sent back to France if they are found to be taking drugs, drinking alcohol, dating, or driving a car. However, he insisted he had no say in the decision-making process to expel students from the program.

The student said that she knew Chao had a wife and children. When she told a classmate that she had sex with Chao, "she was a little embarrassed at first, a little shy, then a little happy, and finally felt confused about the whole situation, and did not know what to do."

At first, her classmate suggested she notify the chairman, but she was reluctant to do so. However, she eventually decided to inform the chairman of the incident.

Prosecutors decided that the student's fear that she would be repatriated if she did not have sex with Chao was a problem with her "subjective cognition." Prosecutors determined that Chao had not used his position of power to coerce the female exchange student into having sexual relations with him.

They said that testimony by the student's classmates indicated that she and Chao had "feelings for each other," and therefore it was more likely that the sexual encounter was consensual. Prosecutors said that there was insufficient evidence to support the student's claim that Chao had used his position of power to coerce her, and so they decided to drop the charges against him.

After news broke of the incident, Chao voluntarily stepped down from his position in Rotary Club International. In response, the organization stated that "it was really horrible," "damaged the reputation of Rotary Club International," and will affect exchange plans in the future.