An employee of Alibaba’s retailer Taoxianda published a post on Alibaba’s internal forum accusing her supervisor, Wang Chengwen, of sexually assaulting her during a business trip to Jinan City in Shandong Province. Local police are currently investigating the case, and Alibaba‘s CEO Daniel Zhang has apologized for the company’s poor handling of the matter.
According to the employee’s account, from July 24 to 26, Wang repeatedly requested her to go on a business trip to Jinan, which she refused due to the bad weather conditions caused by the typhoons that were hitting eastern China at that time. Still, on July 27, she went to Jinan “as a result of the pressure from Wang’s insistence”.
In a banquet with Wang and a few other members of Taoxianda’s local partners, the employee was forced to drink and, as a result, became intoxicated. She recalls that, as she was losing consciousness, she was sexually assaulted by one of the members from the banquet for about twenty minutes, during which time her supervisor Wang did nothing to stop the man.
The employee later woke up naked on the morning of July 28. In her account, she wrote, “An overwhelming sense of shame and fear came over me all at once.”
She found an opened condom package near the bed and vaguely remembers that, after the banquet, Wang took her to a hotel room and raped her. “I couldn’t move lying on the bed. I was crying and he [Wang] just kept kissing and touching me.”
Wang denied the rape accusation when she called him the next day, and said he only “kissed and hugged her”, but the hotel’s CCTV footage shows that Wang came into her room four times that night, and stayed for about 20 minutes each.
The employee made a complaint to Alibaba, but Wang received no punishment, and the company remained perfunctory over the matter. After her persistent effort, on August 2, the employee was promised to get an official response from the company in three days. The response never arrived. The staff in charge of the issue explained that it was “for the good of her own reputation.”
The employee said she then complained about the matter in the company’s work group, but the message was deleted and she was removed from the group. She also reported being confronted by a dozen security guards, who threatened to send her to the police.
Driven to despair by the company’s inaction, the employee revealed what had happened on Alibaba’s internal forum, where Jack Ma also visits occasionally. The post went viral across Chinese social media late Saturday.
According to Alibaba’s official statement, the police in Jinan have begun an investigation of the case, and the suspected employees have been suspended by the company. Alibaba has also set up an investigative team led by Jiang Fang, the company’s deputy Chief People Officer.
Around Saturday midnight, Alibaba’s CEO Daniel Zhang apologized on Ali’s intranet for the indifference and lack of timely handling by supervisors at all levels. He wrote, “for such a thing to happen at Ali, it is not only the HR team that should apologize, but the relevant business supervisors at all levels that are responsible. All should apologize for the indifference and for not dealing with the matter promptly. Starting with myself and our managers, each of us must reflect and take action!”