China’s Alibaba accused of firing female employee who alleged colleague sexually assaulted her

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding has dismissed a female employee who accused a former co-worker of sexual assault earlier this year, the government-backed newspaper Dahe Daily has reported.

Dahe Daily interviewed the employee, saying she had received notification of termination at the end of November, and published a copy of what she said was her termination letter.

The letter said the employee had spread false information about being assaulted and about the company not handling the case. It added this “caused strong social concern and had a bad impact on the company”.

The newspaper report at the weekend quoted the employee as saying in the interview: “I have not made any mistakes and certainly will not accept this result, and in the future will use legal means to protect my rights and interests.”

Alibaba did not respond to a request for comment outside working hours. A lawyer for the employee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce firm, was rocked by the sexual assault allegation in August after the female employee published an account on the company’s intranet stating that she was assaulted by her co-worker and a client during a business trip.

Alibaba fired the co-worker accused of assault, but also dismissed 10 other employees for publicising the incident. Alibaba has previously said in a statement that it has a “zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct.” Alibaba chief executive officer Daniel Zhang, has previously been reported as saying he was “shocked, furious, and ashamed” about the misconduct case.

Chinese prosecutors later dropped the case against the employee’s co-worker, stating that he committed forcible indecency but not a crime, but approved the arrest of the client in early September.

In China, issues of sexual harassment and assault were rarely brought up in the public sphere until the #MeToo movement took off in 2018, when a Beijing college student publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment.

The country is in the spotlight over its handling of allegations by tennis star Peng Shuai, who claimed in a Weibo post that she was sexually assaulted by a former senior government official. The post disappeared quickly and Peng was not seen for almost three weeks, prompting an international campaign calling for information on her whereabouts and wellbeing.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has announced the suspension of all tournaments in China amid concerns about her safety.

Reuters contributed to this report

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