The trial began on Monday against a former Peking University professor who is facing a libel charge for revealing the alleged sexual improprieties of fellow academics, such as offering women degrees in exchange for sex. Zou Hengfu, 52, posted accusations on his Sina Weibo account in August 2012 that some of the prestigious university’s faculty had “preyed” on young female workers at a nearby restaurant, giving them degrees for sexual favours. Within a week, Zou’s post was shared nearly 70,000 times and triggered some 18,000 comments, mostly focusing on the public’s mounting concerns over declining morals in the mainland academe. The university and the restaurant, Mengtaoyuan, filed the lawsuit against Zou a month after his Weibo post came online. They are demanding he withdraw his post and publish open apologies, without further compensation. The sex allegation was another blow to the university, which faced several controversies over the past decade, including a plagiarism case and, more recently, accusations of unfairly dismissing an outspoken pro-democracy professor Xia Yeliang. Zou, the defendant, has a bitter history with his former employer. In 2007, Peking University dismissed him from the economics department after teaching there for almost 10 years. The university said Zou was dismissed for failing to spend enough time teaching. Zou challenged the decision in a complaint to the Ministry of Education and has since been vocal against “low morals” in the academe. On Monday, the defendant’s lawyer said Zou would not appear at the trial, held at the Haidan District People’s Court in Beijing.