Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said on Monday it has fired a manager accused of sexual assault and promised policies to prevent sexual harassment, an action criticized by state media for having produced only after the accuser denounced the events publicly.
On Saturday, an employee posted an 11-page account on Alibaba’s intranet claiming that her boss and a client had sexually assaulted her, and that superiors and human resources had not taken the matter seriously in the five days. elapsed since the complaint.
The manager, based at the City Retail grocery delivery subsidiary, said he had participated in “intimate acts” when the employee was drunk and “has been fired and will not be hired again,” CEO Daniel Zhang said in a note. of the intranet seen by Reuters and made public later. Police are investigating the matter, he added.
Reuters was unable to reach the person in question for comment.
State media and social media users were overwhelmingly critical of Alibaba’s alleged delay in handling the incident.
“Alibaba was unable to provide a response that would satisfy public opinion for this awkward inaction,” said an editorial in the Global Times tabloid published by the state-run People’s Daily.
Internally, in a group chat dedicated to the subject, staff have demanded justice and measures to prevent sexual harassment. An ad, on Alibaba’s work messaging app DingTalk, showed the group had more than 6,000 members as of Sunday.
The incident has also sparked an internal debate about the company’s culture, according to an Alibaba employee, who was not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.
The employee said that Alibaba faces strong pressure in terms of public opinion and that it needs to “scrape the poison off the bone,” a Chinese expression equivalent to separating the rotten apple from the rest of the basket.
Alibaba has faced outrage from both public opinion and authorities in the past year and a half. In April 2020, users of Weibo Corp’s self-titled microblog, owned by Alibaba, complained about the disappearance of critical reports on the platform about a matter involving a senior Alibaba executive.
And in March, Alibaba received a record $ 2.75 billion fine for anti-competitive behavior.
In his note, Zhang announced company-wide sexual harassment prevention training. She also said that Alibaba strongly opposes “the ugly culture of forced drinking,” referring to the employee’s account of the incident in which she said her boss ordered her to drink.
“This incident is a humiliation for all Alibaba employees. We must rebuild, and we must change,” he said in the note.
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