Alibaba under attack despite firing manager accused of sexual assault


China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, fired a manager on Monday after being accused of sexual assault, forcing the company to establish legal rules to ensure an incident like this won’t happen again. 

Days before the issue surfaced, the female employee who was the victim of the sexual assault posted an 11-page account on Alibaba’s private network, noting that not only did the manager sexually assault her, but a client participated in the act as well.  

The employee went on to blast the human resources department for not taking the matter seriously in the five days since the incident was reported. 

According to media reports, the assault took place during a work trip to eastern China, where the employee was forced to drink alcohol by her manager. 

The police are currently investigating the matter. 

As expected, Alibaba Group Holding is receiving major backlash for only acting when the incident spread like wildfire on social media platforms. 

In an internal memo issued to staff, Chief Executive Daniel Zhang assured that the manager at Alibaba’s City Retail unit, which offers grocery delivery from local supermarkets, “has been fired and will never be rehired.” 

Zhang went on to clarify that internal investigations were able to obtain a confession from the manager himself, who admitting to indulging in “intimate acts” with the woman while she was under the influence. 

The client who’s also accused of partaking in the incident was sacked as well. 

“Regardless of gender, whether it is a request made by a customer or a supervisor, our employees are empowered to reject it,” Zhang said, taking a hit at the “ugly forced drinking culture.” 

However, it’s going to take way more than issuing an internal memo for the e-commerce giant to amend their sluggish response to the matter.  

“Alibaba could not offer an answer that satisfies public opinion for this ham-handed inaction,” The Global Times tabloid wrote.  

The Chinese e-commerce firm failed to take appropriate action “when the employee reported a horrendous act such as rape,” Zhang noted in the memo. 

Li Yonghe, the president of Alibaba’s neighborhood retail business group along with its human resources generalist, Xu Kun resigned quickly following the backlash. 

The incident sparked a discussion on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, prompting users to share their own experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

One user wrote about her supervisor turning a blind eye when co-workers forced her to drink during a work dinner. The woman noted that her peers only inquired on her well-being the following day. 

While Alibaba pledged to conduct a reporting channel solely for sexual harassment cases for more than its 254,000 staff members, the majority of the public agrees that more should be done. 

“This incident is a humiliation for all Alibaba employees. We must rebuild, and we must change,” Zhang said. 

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