Alibaba slammed by state media despite dismissal of director accused of sexual assault

By Josh Horwitz

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, said on Monday it had fired a director accused of sexual assault and promised policies to prevent sexual harassment, but has been criticized by the media for State for not having acted until the accuser goes Public.

On Saturday, an employee posted an 11-page account on Alibaba’s intranet claiming that her manager and a client sexually assaulted her, and that superiors and human resources had not taken the matter seriously in the five days since she reported it.

General manager Daniel Zhang said in an intranet note that the manager of the Neighborhood Retail grocery delivery unit said he was involved in “intimate acts” when the employee was intoxicated and “was made redundant and will never be rehired”. He said police were investigating the case.

Reuters could not reach the official for comment.

Later Monday, police in Jinan City, where the alleged incident took place, said the client was under investigation.

State media and online commentators overwhelmingly criticized Alibaba’s perceived delay in handling the incident.

“Alibaba could not offer a response that satisfies public opinion for this clumsy inaction,” said a Global Times tabloid editorial published by the People’s Daily.

Internally, in a group chat dedicated to the issue, staff called for justice and action to prevent sexual harassment. A notice, posted on Alibaba’s workplace messaging app DingTalk, showed the group had more than 6,000 members on Sunday.

The incident also sparked an internal discussion about the company’s culture, said an Alibaba employee, who was not authorized to speak with the media and therefore declined to be identified.

The employee said that Alibaba was under great pressure from public opinion and needed to “scrape the poison from the bone” – a Chinese phrase meaning to remove a harmful part to save the blood. all.

Alibaba has faced the wrath of the public and the authorities over the past year and a half. In April 2020, users of the eponymous Weibo Corp microblog, backed by Alibaba, complained about the disappearance of critical reports on the platform regarding a case involving a top Alibaba executive.

And as recently as March, Alibaba was fined a record $ 2.75 billion for anti-competitive behavior.

In his memo, Zhang announced company-wide training for the prevention of sexual harassment. He also said that Alibaba was fiercely opposed to “the ugly culture of forced consumption.”

The employee said in her account of the incident that her manager ordered her to drink.

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

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Additional reporting from Engen Tham in Shanghai, Cheng Leng and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Kevin Liffey)

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