Alibaba working with police amid rape, sexual harassment allegations by female employee

  • The female employee alleged that she was sexually molested by a client and then raped by her supervisor on July 27
  • A special task force at Alibaba will work with the Jinan police force, in eastern Shandong province, in their official investigation

A female employee of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding has accused a direct supervisor of rape and a client of molesting her during a meeting on July 27.

In an internal letter sent early on Sunday, Alibaba chairman and chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong said he was “shocked, angered, and ashamed” by this case and demanded a thorough investigation, pledging to cooperate with police. Zhang’s letter, which several Chinese media reports have cited, was confirmed by Alibaba employees.

The police force in Jinan, capital of eastern Shandong province, said they were “investigating and seeking evidence” about the incident, according to a statement on Sunday. The female Alibaba employee alleged that the sexual molestation and subsequent rape happened in the city on July 27. The police promised to publish any progress about its investigation in a timely manner.

The unidentified employee posted her account of what happened on social media on Saturday, alleging that an executive of Taoxianda – a fresh food delivery service under Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace business – pressed her to go with him on a business dinner with clients in Jinan on July 27.

The employee alleged that she fell unconscious after being forced to imbibe a drink during dinner, which led to an unidentified client molesting her in the restaurant.

She alleged that her Taoxianda supervisor took her back to an unidentified hotel because she was in an intoxicated state. This supervisor, who apparently got a room card from the reception desk, entered the female employee’s room four times during that night, according to her online account.

When she woke up on July 28, the employee alleged that she found herself naked and then called the police. Her supervisor was held for questioning by Jinan police, but was released after 24 hours, according to the employee’s account.

The employee said she reported the incident to senior managers at Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post.

Her complaint, however, did not result in the alleged rapist being fired, according to the employee’s online account.

Taking matters into her own hands, the employee said she went to the Hangzhou-based company’s dining hall on Friday and used a loudspeaker to disclose to her peers the sexual assault that she suffered. She was stopped by the firm‘s internal security from completing her public disclosure, according to her account.

That prompted her to finally reveal her experience via social media on Saturday. It immediately went viral.

In his internal letter, Zhang said he regretted the indifference and lack of response from the company’s executives.

The company has suspended the duties of the executives involved in the case, according to a statement sent to the Post on Sunday. The company said it has formed a special task force to look into the allegations and work with the Jinan police’s official investigation.

On Sunday, the accused Taoxianda client’s employer, Jinan Hualian Supermarket, also issued a statement that it is cooperating with the local police investigation and that the employee accused of molestation has been suspended from his duties.

This case marks the latest public relations crisis for Alibaba, months after the company was slapped with an 18.2 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) antitrust fine by the State Administration for Market Regulation.

Author: Che Pan, SCMP

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