Home Written work Alibaba fires employee accused of sexual assault as pressure mounts on Chinese tech

Alibaba fires employee accused of sexual assault as pressure mounts on Chinese tech


The company said Monday it fired an employee after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman who also works at Ali Baba (BABA). The man confessed to actions Alibaba considered “a serious breach of company policy,” according to a note sent by Alibaba Group Chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang to employees.

According to Zhang’s note, two senior executives also quit after “not prioritizing employee protection.”

“Alibaba Group has a zero tolerance policy against sexual misconduct, and ensuring a safe workplace for all of our employees is Alibaba’s top priority,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business. .

The allegations – which were circulated widely on Chinese social media over the weekend – have rocked Alibaba at a time when it and other Chinese tech companies are already facing close scrutiny from Chinese regulators over their activities. The claims sparked a public outcry as many criticized the company for handling the situation.

The controversy began after an article – allegedly written by the victim, who did not identify himself, and posted on an internal Alibaba website – circulated on Chinese social media site Weibo. According to screenshots from the 8,000-word account, the woman claimed to have been assaulted by her supervisor while on a business trip to Jinan, a city in eastern China, when she said ‘she was drunk.

“The male leader even walked into my hotel room four times that night with a condom and assaulted me !!!! When I typed the lines above I couldn’t control myself and I burst into tears. I never thought I would have such an experience, “she wrote. “When I think about it now, I feel like it’s a nightmare, a nightmare that terrifies you, scared, helpless, helpless!”

CNN Business cannot confirm the authenticity of the message.

The post exploded on Chinese social media. Topics related to the incident were viewed 850 million times on Weibo, generating more than 510,000 chat messages.

Some commentators have accused Alibaba of failing to protect the rights of its employees. The woman reportedly claimed the company dismissed her concerns when she reported them.

“How is it that there are still some female employees who have been pushed and pushed by their leaders to drink and are raped. Is this the culture of Alibaba?” wrote a Weibo user. “I really hope that the results of the investigation will be clear as soon as possible. Such a large company must protect its employees.”
Jinan police announced on Weibo on Sunday that they had opened an investigation into the case.

“The police are actively investigating the case and collecting evidence,” they said in a statement.

The accused has not been charged with any crime. In the note to employees on Monday, Zhang said the employee confessed to “intimate acts” with a drunk woman, violating company policy.

“Whether he committed rape or indecency that violates the law will be determined by law enforcement,” Zhang added in the note, which was posted publicly on the company’s news site.

“He will be fired and will never be rehired,” Zhang wrote.

Two executives, including the chairman of Alibaba’s Neighborhood Retail group, resigned over handling the incident, according to Zhang, who added that the woman reported the incident to the company on Aug. 2.

“We believe that the head of the business is both the owner of the business and the culture of the team,” Zhang wrote, adding that when the woman reported “a horrible act… they didn’t made timely decisions or taken appropriate action “.

“This incident has caused her enormous harm. We will do everything possible to take care of her,” Zhang wrote.

Zhang added that the company’s human resources director was also reprimanded and said the company would establish a dedicated reporting channel for employees, as well as an “anti-sexual harassment policy” that would include the contribution of the company. ‘experts and employees.

Zhang also admitted that the incident highlights what he called a culture of “forced drinking”, referring to heavy drinking events that are popular in China for making business deals or forming partnerships. .

“Although the police are still investigating the specific circumstances of that day’s dinner, we are fiercely opposed to the horrific culture of forced consumption,” he wrote. “Regardless of gender, whether it is a request made by a client or a supervisor, our employees have the right to reject it.”

The rapid spread of the scandal on social media – along with the public outrage that followed – comes as large companies, including Alibaba, have faced enormous regulatory pressure.

As President Xi Jinping increasingly emphasizes the dominant role of the ruling Communist Party in all aspects of China’s economy and society, regulators have targeted technology, education and other companies with fines and restrictions.

Complaints about work culture play a role in this scrutiny. Pinduoduo, an e-commerce company and Alibaba rival, faced intense public backlash earlier this year over accusations it overloaded its employees after the unexpected death of two of its employees, including one. man who committed suicide.

Chinese social media users have started calling the deaths as emblematic of a tough work culture, and a former company software engineer escalated criticism in several posts where he accused the company of overworking its employees.

The company did not respond to questions about allegations against its work culture at the time, but said it had set up a team to provide psychological support in the wake of a worker’s suicide. .


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