Rape allegations expose toxic culture at Alibaba

The #MeToo movement in China not only led to the arrest of a top Chinese star, but also exposed the scandal in the tech industry.

Alibaba e-commerce group (China) is facing public criticism after the information that a female employee accused of being raped was made public online.

In the 11-page article, originally posted on the company’s internal website, she said that she was forced to drink by her male manager during a client event in late July. She was molested by a customer and then by her boss. sexual assault.

Although she reported the incident to senior managers on August 2, she said no one took any action after that, according to Quartz.

On August 9, Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba, announced that the group had fired a manager after he admitted to “having intimate contact” with a female employee while she was drunk.

Two senior managers also resigned and the human resources director was reprimanded for not responding promptly to the accusations.

“Alibaba Group has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment. Ensuring the safety of our employees is our top priority,” said a spokesman for the group. The police have started investigating the incident.

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The scandal at Alibaba Group exposed gender discrimination in the technology industry. Photo: Reuters.

The sexualization of women in the tech world

The Alibaba scandal fueled the #MeToo movement, which flared up again in China after Wu Yifan was arrested by police for alleged rape.

The case also sparked discussion about inherent gender discrimination at China’s biggest corporations. Zhang also acknowledged this problem with the Aliens (the way the corporation calls employees):

“People’s deep concern comes not only from sympathy for the injured colleague, but also from frustration with the work culture at Alibaba.

This is a shameful incident for all of Aliren. We must change and rebuild. Change can only happen through the actions of each person, starting from the top, which is me. Please wait and watch.”

In online discussions, many people pay attention to the details of the manager joking with customers that he brought “beautiful people” to the event. This shows how the tech industry continues to treat women as sex tools.

In 2015, many tech companies in China hired female “fans” to boost the morale of their programmers, mostly male.

In 2017, a video went viral online showing female Tencent employees using their teeth to open a water bottle between their male colleagues’ feet during a game at a New Year’s Eve party. Tencent apologized and vowed to monitor events more closely.

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Many other technology companies in China have come under criticism for their sexist behavior. Photo: Bloomberg.

In 2018, the report of Human Rights Watch pointed out sexist job advertisements from Chinese tech companies, including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.

These ads promise candidates that they can work with “beauties” and “goddess”. The companies apologized and promised to review the ads more carefully in the future.

In 2020, Airbnb opened an investigation after female employees in China complained to US management about misconduct by a senior leader, including grading women’s appearance.

Many internet users condemned the company’s culture of forced drinking. Bosses or customers often force young female employees to drink when signing a contract or to show respect.

“Whether the police investigation brings new developments to the Alibaba case or not, China’s bad culture of forced drinking has existed for more than a decade. Hopefully the criticism this time will bring change,” one blogger wrote on the Weibo social network.

Impact of #MeToo

Since the #MeToo movement began globally, women in China have also spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment at school or work.

A recent turning point may include China allowing women to file civil lawsuits for sexual harassment. Earlier this year, a plaintiff won a lawsuit against a colleague.

However, discussions about #MeToo are censored and women who share experiences of sexual harassment have faced defamation charges.

The events of recent months have shown that views on feminism have had a certain impact.

In 2018, when a Chinese girl studying in the US accused tycoon Richard Liu, CEO of e-commerce group, of rape, she was humiliated by many online users.

Liu insisted that the two had a consensual relationship and that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to charge him. A civil lawsuit against Liu is ongoing.


The #MeToo movement has had an impact on sexual harassment cases. Photo: VOA.

Meanwhile, with the scandal of Wu Yifan and Alibaba, many people online simultaneously supported the women who came forward.

Some tech companies that have experienced sexism in the past have moved to improve their internal culture.

“We do not tolerate harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment. We have channels for employees to share their concerns or experiences with high confidentiality. If the incident is serious, we will not hesitate to report it to law enforcement,” Tencent said of its anti-sexual harassment policy.

In the open letter, about 6,000 Alibaba employees urged the company to set up a team to look into sexual assault cases, according to the report. Wall Street Journal.

Zhang promised to set up a reporting channel for employees if they feel their rights have been violated. The company will also provide training on employee rights, including sexual harassment.

He also said the company “firmly opposes the culture of forced drinking” and that employees have the right to refuse such requests, whether it is from customers or management.

Although Zhang pledged to “promulgate a policy against sexual harassment, ensure workplace safety for employees, and have zero tolerance for abuse”, many people believe that Alibaba did this too late.

Zhang Yiyu, a famous psychologist, wrote on Weibo: “I was quite surprised that the company did not have an anti-sexual harassment policy until now. I hope the incident at Alibaba will prompt more companies to enact clear policies in this respect to protect employees from sex crimes.”

Follow Zing

Alibaba employee accuses boss of sexual assault

China’s leading technology group has fired a number of senior employees and coordinated with the police to investigate, after a female employee claimed to be sexually assaulted by her boss.


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