Alibaba under social media storm after female employee alleges sexual assault
Signage at the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, August 2, 2021. /CFP

Signage at the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China, August 2, 2021. /CFP

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has once again been embroiled in a social media storm, this time neither for its suspended Ant's IPO nor record antitrust fine, but sexual assault allegation.

A female Alibaba employee claimed in the company's intranet that she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor and a client during a "forced" business trip, according to a post by an account verified as "Alibaba staff", which has circulated through social media since Saturday afternoon.

Per screenshots of the woman's 11-page PDF allegation, which went viral on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, her boss asked her to "keep company with clients" in the evening of July 27 in Jinan, east China's Shandong Province, and she was "kissed and touched private parts" by one of the clients.

The woman said she was hungover in a hotel room next morning with her clothes removed and didn't remember what happened in the late night, but noticed her boss entered her room four times from CCTV footage. She then called the police.

According to her allegation, she reported the incident to the human resources department and her upper management on August 2, but they didn't proactively follow.

Having failed to attract attention from executives, the woman yelled and distributed flyers in the company's dining hall, according to her posts online.

A spokesperson from Alibaba responded to CGTN, saying that it has "a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct" and ensuring a safe workplace for employees is the company's "top priority."

"We have suspended relevant parties suspected of violating our policies and values, and we have established a special internal task force to investigate the issue and support the ongoing police investigation. We will provide further updates as we continue to work with law enforcement on the investigation."

Late Saturday night, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said on the company's message board that he felt "shock, angry and ashamed" to what happened on the woman and blamed related departments and managers for their "silence and sluggish response," two employees who saw Zhang's message and required anonymity told CGTN.

Alibaba employees are outraged by the incident, both sources said. 

Over 6,000 employees have started a petition asking Alibaba to dismiss the woman's boss and better protect employees' rights, said one of the sources.

The suspected client is under police investigation, according to Jinan Police Department and the Jinan Hualian Supermarket, which the client works for.

However, the suspect denied the allegation to Jiupai News, a local Chinese digital news provider, asserting that what happened that night was "just an ordinary dinner" and he "didn't do anything excessive."

On Tuesday, Alibaba reported a 34-percent revenue increase in the quarter that ended in June, powered by its commerce and cloud computing business. It was previously slapped with a fine of 18.23 billion yuan ($2.78 billion) by the country's market regulator in April for abusing its dominant market position.

(CGTN's Yang Jing and Gong Zhe contributed to the story.)

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