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Alibaba to offer self-defense training in response to sexual assault allegation

Pledges to 'strengthen organizational guardrails' with raft of new policy and training initiatives

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has published a letter sent to its 250,000-plus staff in which it explains its reaction to recent news of a harrowing sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by a company manager – and the company's response includes self-defense training for staff.

Titled "Alibaba to Strengthen Organizational Guardrails for Positive Workplace Environment", the letter details three main sets of initiatives. One is the establishment of a Group Committee on Workplace Environment that will be led by senior female executives, with a mission to define workplace policies, establish an independent body to investigate sexual harassment and assault claims, and create an appeals committee.

The company has also pledged to reform its codes of conduct and workplace policies. A Group Sexual Harassment Prevention Code of Conduct will be developed, and the company's code of conduct will be revised "to improve practices and measures related to sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention".

The third set of initiatives is headed "We are institutionalizing positive workplace measures" and includes the following:

Professional training will be instituted. Regular sexual harassment prevention and self-defense employee training will be introduced. Training of new employees, managers, and professional functions will be strengthened. Sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention will be incorporated into our annual mandatory “Alibaba Group Business Code of Conduct” certification.

Alibaba published the letter in English. It is unclear if something has been lost in translation – which The Register mentions as improving victims' ability to defend themselves is generally not seen as a tactic likely to prevent harassment or attacks.

The section also announces the creation of a team called "ALI-WE" to "examine and eradicate inappropriate workplace behavior reported by employees, including but not limited to issues such as forced drinking culture and tasteless comments that make the workplace uncomfortable".

"Employees will have unconditional support to refuse any type of forced drinking," states the section on ALI-WE.

"The best reflection is action," opens the letter's concluding paragraph. "Every one of us is responsible for contributing to a positive atmosphere at Alibaba. It is our shared responsibility to create a mutually respectful workplace environment. Please join us in our actions! Let us work hard together!" ®

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