Alibaba fires employee allegedly sexually assaulted by supervisor

Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba has fired an employee who accused her supervisor of sexual assault during a business trip, in the latest setback for the country’s #MeToo movement.

The company founded by billionaire Jack Ma accused the employee of “spreading false information” and “creating a negative impact,” according to a copy of the dismissal letter seen by the Financial Times.

The letter criticized the employee for bringing a “banner and microphone” to the company cafeteria and for posting a lengthy account of the assault on Alibaba’s internal chat room to attract attention. pay attention to the incident.

Her account of sexual abuse by her boss and a client at a drink-fueled business dinner spread online in August and turned into a public relations disaster for Alibaba.

The woman, who only asked to be identified by her last name Zhou, told the FT that she released her story internally “after repeatedly reporting the incident to company executives without a response. “.

“I just wanted the leadership of the company to see what happened and help resolve it, she said. “I never thought the company would end up firing me, the victim. It is very unfair, ”she said.

The incident sparked a debate over Alibaba’s allegedly sexist corporate culture and forced a broader calculation of forced consumption at work, which was condemned by the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog. .

Initially, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang called the alleged assault a “humiliation for all Aliren” or “Ali” and vowed to lead the change within the company. Zhou’s supervisor who was accused of the assault was fired and two other executives were asked to resign for ignoring his reports.

But Alibaba also subsequently fired 10 employees who disclosed Zhou’s account to the public. Activists said the decision to target Zhou showed the challenges of China’s #MeToo movement.

Her dismissal also came after Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared from public view and was censored online after making sexual assault allegations against a former senior Chinese Communist Party official.

“Sometimes there will be a step forward and then a step back [for gender equality]Said Feng Yuan, director of Beijing-based women‘s rights group Weiping.

Alibaba “did a very poor job in responding to the initial complaint and [now] finally lay off the employee, ”she added.

Alibaba’s dismissal letter stated that the incident had caused “untold harm” to both Zhou and the company and accused him of not communicating in good faith.

“I really don’t understand, until the company’s executives issued press releases stressing that they would handle this properly, I didn’t think the result would fire me,” Zhou said.

Alibaba did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In September, Chinese authorities dropped the additional charges against the accused former director and imposed a 15-day detention as punishment for “indecent exposure.”

Zhou’s dismissal has once again put Alibaba in the public limelight, with the topic trending this weekend on the popular social media app Weibo.

Chinese officials have stepped up a campaign this year to curb the private sector, with a reading from the party’s annual economic planning meeting calling capital regulation a goal for the coming year.

The party must “support and guide the healthy development of capital” and prevent “the barbaric expansion of capital,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.

In a separate attempt to appease Chinese authorities, Alibaba on Monday turned its black-and-white e-commerce site to commemorate the Nanjing Massacre, a brutal milestone in Japan’s 1937-1945 invasion of China that remains a source of friction between the main Asian powers.

Maiqi Ding contributed to Beijing reporting

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