SHANGHAI–A report of sexual assault has rocked Alibaba Group, prompting the Chinese tech giant’s ceo Daniel Zhang to issue a company-wide statement on Monday morning apologizing for the firm’s slow response and announcing that it had fired the male employee accused of raping a female colleague.
Zhang said he was “shocked, furious, and ashamed” to learn of the case. In the same memo, Zhang said that two senior managers also had resigned after failing to respond appropriately to the woman’s report.
On Sunday, a woman, whose name was not public, posted an essay on Alibaba’s internal forum saying that her boss had raped her while she was unconscious and that she had also been molested by a client on July 27 while on a work trip in Jinan, Shandong province. The account was quickly shared over social media and began trending on Weibo.
According to her account, the alleged main perpetrator was her manager named Wang Chengwen. Wang had been very insistent that she travel with him to Jinan to meet a client, despite the fact that Hangzhou that weekend had an incoming typhoon and travel was not recommended.
At dinner, Wang told the client, “Look at how good I am to you, I brought you a beauty” and said that the woman could really drink, despite her protests that she did not have a high tolerance for alcohol. Over the course of the dinner, Wang pressured her to drink excessively and as she became inebriated, the client began groping her chest and private areas. After she became sick and had stained her clothes, the client said he would help her to the bathroom to clean up but instead took her away to an enclosed private room.
The woman said at this point she was unable to stand and walk by herself and that another female from the client team was also in this state.
She awoke the next morning naked in a hotel room and found an open package of condoms on the nightstand, she said, and recalled crying the night before as her manager Wang was on top of her but that she had been able to move. She added that when she checked CCTV footage from the hotel, it showed Wang had entered her room four times that night.
The woman said she reported it to the police immediately after. She also tried to report it to the firm, approaching Wang’s managers, but had been silenced by Alibaba and initial posts to a company chat group had led to her being removed.
Zhang’s company-wide memo said that Alibaba would support the woman and the police while they completed their investigation. The ceo said it had formed an internal investigation team and would conduct company-wide training on employee rights including anti-sexual harassment. Alibaba is “staunchly opposed to the ugly forced drinking culture. Regardless of gender, whether it is a request made by a customer or supervisor, our employees are empowered to reject it,” Zhang wrote.
“This incident is shameful for all Aliren [a term used by Alibaba to call its employees]. We must rebuild, and we must change. Change is only possible if everyone takes individual action, but it must start at the top. It starts with me. Please wait and watch,” Zhang said.
The incident comes just days after Canadian-Chinese popstar Kris Wu was detained by Beijing authorities on suspicion of rape after multiple women accused him online of preying on young and underaged females. In 2019, JD.com’s billionaire founder Richard Liu was arrested after a student at the University of Minnesota accused him of rape but was later let go.