August 14, 2022

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Alibaba Fires Girl Who Mentioned Supervisor Raped Her

Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba has fired a female employee who accused her superior of sexual...

Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba has fired a female employee who accused her superior of sexual assault on 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 faulted the employee for taking a “banner and microphone” to the company cafeteria and posting a lengthy account of the assault to Alibaba’s internal chat board to draw attention to the incident.
Her account of sexual abuse by her superior and a client at a drinks-fuelled business dinner spread online in August and turned into a public relations disaster for Alibaba.
The woman, who asked only to be identified by her surname Zhou, told the FT that she had published her account internally “after repeatedly reporting the incident to company leaders without a response”.
“I just wanted the company leaders to see what happened and help resolve it,” she said. “I never thought the company would end up firing me, the victim. It’s very unfair,” she said.
The incident ignited a debate about Alibaba’s allegedly sexist corporate culture and forced a broader reckoning of compelled drinking at work functions, which was condemned by the Chinese Communist party’s anti-corruption watchdog.
Initially, Alibaba’s chief executive Daniel Zhang called the alleged assault a “humiliation for all Aliren” or “Ali people” and pledged to lead change at the company. Zhou’s superior who was accused of the assault was fired and two other executives were asked to resign for ignoring her reports.
But Alibaba also subsequently fired 10 employees who leaked Zhou’s account to the public. Activists said the move to target Zhou pointed to the challenges for China’s #MeToo movement.
Her dismissal also came after Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has disappeared from public view and been censored online after making allegations of sexual assault against a former senior Chinese Communist party official.
“Sometimes there will be one step ahead and then one step back [for gender equality],” said Feng Yuan, director of Beijing-based women’s rights group Weiping.
Alibaba “did a really poor job in responding to the initial complaint and [now] finally firing the employee”, she added.

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Alibaba’s dismissal letter said the incident had caused “incalculable harm” to both Zhou and the company and accused her of not communicating in good faith.
“I really don’t understand it, before the company leaders were putting out press releases emphasising that they would properly handle this, I didn’t think the result would be dismissing me,” Zhou said.
Alibaba did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
In September, Chinese authorities dropped additional charges against the accused former manager and imposed a 15-day detention as punishment for “forced indecency”.
Zhou’s firing once again put Alibaba in the public spotlight, with the topic trending over the weekend on popular social media app Weibo.
Chinese officials have stepped up a campaign this year to rein in the private sector, with a readout from the party’s annual economic planning meeting calling the regulation of capital a focus 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 agency.
In a separate bid to placate Chinese authorities, Alibaba on Monday turned its ecommerce site to black and white to commemorate the Nanjing Massacre, a brutal stage in Japan’s 1937-45 invasion of China that remains a source of friction between Asia’s leading powers.
Maiqi Ding contributed reporting from Beijing

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