Mental Health Marketing & the Marginalized Work & Wellbeing

Alibaba responds to allegations around sexual assault in the business

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By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

August 10, 2021 | 4 min read

Alibaba has pledged to change the “ugly drinking culture” in the ecommerce company after it emerged that an employee was allegedly raped by her colleague and a client.

According to an internal memo to staff seen by AFP, the company’s chief executive, Daniel Zhang condemned the attack and his own company’s initial handling of the complaint.

Internal investigations found the accused, a manager, had confessed to “intimate acts” with the woman while she was inebriated, violating company policy together. He had assaulted the woman together with a client.

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The woman's post of the assault went viral on the Weibo platform

“He will be fired and never be rehired. The issue is now with the police,” said Zhang. “Regardless of gender, whether it is a request made by a customer or a supervisor, our employees are empowered to reject it.”

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

What happened?

  • The woman reported the alleged assault to senior managers but eventually decided to go public when nothing was done.

  • Her post of the assault went viral on the Weibo platform, with a hashtag of the incident viewed 820 million times at the time of writing.

  • The president of Alibaba’s neighborhood retail business group, Li Yonghe, and its human resources generalist, Xu Kun, have resigned for failing to take action when the woman’s complaint surfaced.

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

Why does this matter?

  • China is continuing its crackdown on the country’s big tech, including Alibaba, by launching a national campaign that will address what it perceives as major issues in the digital industry.

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  • The six-month-long campaign will address the ‘tough problems’ of the internet industry, including disturbing market order, infringing users’ rights, threatening data security, and unauthorized internet connections.

  • An anonymous group of advertising executives has issued a declaration that seeks to hold men in the industry accountable for sexual abuse and harassment after Zoe Scaman published a powerful piece on Substack detailing the extent of the issue.

  • The polemic has been shared across social media with the caption ‘enough is enough and warns abusers working within the industry that their names are known and that if their behavior continues claims will “escalate to the police”.

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