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Sexual harassment and assault

Ex-China diving coach ‘allowed environment of rape, sexual harassment, violence to continue’ in Malaysia

The country’s sports body refuses to renew Yang Zhuliang’s contract against the backdrop of China-born Malaysian coach Huang Qiang being on trial for allegedly raping a diver

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 December, 2017, 1:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 December, 2017, 11:35pm

A former Chinese national diving coach was sacked by Malaysia because he failed to protect divers from an environment of rape, sexual harassment, violence, bullying and threats, local media reported the country’s Youth and Sports Minister as saying.

Yang Zhuliang, who has been coaching in Malaysia since 2008 and produced two world-class divers in Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong, was not offered a new contract, with minister Khairy Jamaluddin saying they were concerned by a number of issues.

In October, China-born Malaysian citizen Huang Qiang was charged with raping a 20-year-old diver at the National Aquatic Centre in Kuala Lumpur. Huang pleaded not guilty at his trial, which is continuing.

“The main reason why Zhuliang’s contract as national diving head coach was not renewed was because of a culture and environment of fear among some of our diving athletes. This culture and environment had caused cases of rape, sexual harassment, violence, beatings, bullying and threats,” Khairy said in a statement, according to Malaysian media.

“Although Zhuliang himself was not involved in those things, he had allowed them to spread uncontrollably even though several warnings had been issued to him and another coach who was quite close to him.

“After that coach was charged in the Kuala Lumpur sessions court on October 11 2017 under Section 376(1) of the Penal Code for the offence of raping a national diving athlete, the environment and surroundings of the national diving team’s training became more complicated,” the minister added.

Under Yang’s guidance, Pandelela won a bronze in the women’s 10-metre platform event at the 2012 London Olympic Games. At the 2016 Rio Games, Pandelela combined with Cheong to win a silver medal in the women’s synchronised 10m platform competition.

Yang’s contract will end on December 31.

On Saturday, Yang said in reports that the decision to not renew his contract was unfair.

“I seldom mix with the divers after training. And I don’t pay any attention to their personal lives,” he was quoted as saying. “How could I possibly be in control of everything? I’m really shocked and surprised that the minister has come out with such statement.”

In the wake of the rape case, Khairy was reported to have asked leading sports official Marina Chin to suggest ways to prevent such cases in the national sports set-up. Chin’s investigation unveiled “the existence of a toxic fearful culture, or a culture and environment of fear, that almost completely permeated the diving sport”, Khairy was reported to have said.

He added: “This is the main reason why I chose not to continue his contract. My responsibility as sports minister is not merely to make policy for Malaysia to achieve the highest success in sports, but also to uphold the welfare of national athletes and to protect them from any threats. No gold medal is worth more than the safety of national athletes.”

Originally, it was reported that Yang’s contract was not renewed because he was “old school” in his methods. Because of this, Khairy felt he had to come out with a clear statement as to the reasons why the coach was being let go.

The 53-year-old Yang was offered a role in the National Sports Council’s development programme but declined, with reports on Friday saying some divers also wanted to get rid of him.

“I know some of the divers also want me to leave,” he was quoted as saying, adding that he would return to China.

When asked why they wanted him to leave, Yang replied: “I just want to thank them for all this.” He added: “Yes, people can be cruel sometimes but I’m going to say no to the [development programme] offer.”