Police in China recently released a former Alibaba employee accused of sexually assaulting a co-worker after prosecutors found that his act of “forcible indecency” did not constitute a crime.
The employee was arrested last month after a female employee of Alibaba reported she was sexually assaulted on a business trip. The woman said her manager raped her in a hotel room while she was unconscious after a night of drinking. She alleged that the manager coerced her into travelling to the city of Jinan, which is roughly 560 miles from Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, for a meeting with a client, and accused her superiors of ordering her to drink alcohol with co-workers during dinner before the alleged assault took place. Her allegations were shared widely on Chinese social media and initially created a firestorm within the country and globally. Alibaba fired the man after the allegation, but only after the case became public.
The decision to release the accused man has reignited public debate about the country’s tech industry, the drinking culture in China, and the treatment of women, as detailed in an extensive article in the Wall Street Journal. The man reportedly confessed to actions that Alibaba deemed “in serious violation of company policy,” according to a memo sent by Alibaba Group chairman and CEO Daniel Zhang to employees and made public by the company.
The company said two additional executives who failed to act on the allegation also resigned, and it pledged to establish a dedicated reporting channel for employees, as well as to create an “anti-sexual harassment policy” that would include input from experts and employees.
“Alibaba Group has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct, and ensuring a safe workplace for all our employees is Alibaba’s top priority” an Alibaba spokesperson told the BBC in response to news of the case being dropped.