Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. confirmed on Sunday, August 8, that it had disciplined several employees linked to allegations of sexual misconduct reported by a female staff member.

“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,” said Alibaba in a statement, according to Reuters.

In a lengthy internal post that was not fully disclosed to the public, a female employee of the company disclosed that her manager and a client sexually targeted her during a work trip to the city of Jinan in Shandong province.

According to the unidentified woman, her boss coerced her into going on the trip to meet one of their clients. On the night of July 27, the client kissed her, the woman alleges, and after consuming alcohol, she woke up the next morning naked and could not recall what had happened after she had been kissed.

The hotel’s surveillance camera revealed that her boss entered the room four times that night. 

After returning to Hangzhou, the victim said she tried to contact human resources and upper management to report his misconduct and requested her boss’s dismissal and time off.

But to her frustration, the human resources agreed at first but later on reneged on their promises.

Alibaba Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang said he was infuriated upon learning of the incident, Reuters reported.

“It is not just Human Resources who should apologize. The related business department managers also hold responsibility and should apologize for their silence and failure to respond in a timely manner,” Zhang wrote in an internal post, demanding that “everyone at Alibaba must empathize, reflect, and take action.”

According to Bloomberg, by Saturday, five employees were suspended from work. Meanwhile, Reuters said one of the suspended employees was the victim’s supervisor.

“Alibaba Group has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct, and ensuring a safe workplace for all our employees is Alibaba’s top priority,” the company declared in a statement. Police are assisting their inquiries.

The case had gained massive interest on Chinese social media Weibo, besides the high profile scandal last month with Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu who was accused of rape. Wu has been detained by police in China and is being investigated for “tricking young girls into having sex with him,” according to a statement by police in the Chaoyang district of the Chinese capital Beijing late in July. Wu has denied the allegations.

Since the country’s version of the #MeToo campaign was ignited by Chinese feminists in 2018, sexual misconduct has gained much attention in China. But Bloomberg noted despite accusations against many prominent individuals having been made, convictions are few.  

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