Alibaba chief attacks ‘drinking culture’ after manager is accused of rape

The Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has fired a manager accused of rape, as its chief executive condemned the “ugly forced drinking culture” affecting the company.

An unidentified employee had accused her manager and a client of sexual assault during a work trip to eastern China, according to media reports. She was allegedly made to drink and later violated. Police are investigating.

On Monday, Alibaba’s chief executive, Daniel Zhang, issued an internal memo to staff – seen by AFP – condemning the attack and his own company’s initial handling of the complaint.

He said internal investigations found the accused had confessed to “intimate acts” with the woman while she was inebriated, violating company policy.

“He will be fired and never be rehired,” Zhang said, adding the issue was now with the police. A company representative confirmed the accused had been sacked.

The client in the case accused of sexual assault has also been fired by their company.

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

The woman originally brought up the alleged assault to senior managers, according to a letter circulating on Chinese social media. She eventually decided to go public.

Her case quickly went viral on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, with a hashtag of the incident viewed 820m times at the time of writing.

It prompted users to share their own experiences, with one woman alleging her supervisor turned a blind eye when others pushed her to drink at a work dinner, only asking if she was “all right” the following day.

The president of Alibaba’s neighbourhood retail business group, Li Yonghe, and its human resources generalist, Xu Kun, had resigned, the company said.

They had failed to take appropriate action “when the employee reported a horrendous act such as rape”, said Zhang in the memo.

Alibaba pledged to establish a dedicated reporting channel for its more than 254,000 staff.

Sexual assault has garnered increasing attention in China recently, with celebrities – including the Chinese-Canadian superstar Kris Wu, who was accused of rape – facing investigations and legal charges. Wu has denied the allegations.

Alibaba has already been under government scrutiny, with regulators in the midst of a broad campaign to rein in the growing clout of tech companies.

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