Chinese paper runs interview with Alibaba staffer who claims she was fired after exec rape claim

E-commerce giant's #metoo moment takes sinister turn

Chinese state-owned media has run an interview with a woman – identified only by her last name Zhou – who alleged she was fired after claiming one of the firm's execs raped her while on a business trip, according to an interview between Zhou and Dahe Daily.

Zhou was allegedly sexually assaulted on a business trip by a superior back in August, after being pressured to drink excessively with clients. When she reported the incident, Zhou said Alibaba executives demanded she produce video evidence before they would take action. Desperate to be heard, Zhou took to the company intranet, where she posted an 8000-word account of her accusations. She also distributed pamphlets in the corporate canteen.

Dahe Daily published an interview from December 9 with Zhou, where she states that the e-commerce giant terminated her contract without severance pay at the end of November, on the grounds that she spread false information – specifically "being raped by executives and not handling the company's knowledge" and violated corporate policies that forbid "publishing or disseminating inappropriate remarks to the outside world, or deliberately fabricating or disseminating fictitious facts, or disseminating unverified information, causing a bad impact."

According to a machine translation of the interview, Zhou told Dahe Daily, "In this regard, I would like to say that whether I privately seek out leaders to deal with it, or complain about the lack of results in defending rights in the canteen, or publish articles on Ali's intranet, they are all feedback problems within Ali and have never been disseminated to the outside world." She added that she had not previously been interviewed by the media.

The story has taken several twists and turns over time. Initially, as Alibaba became laden with a PR nightmare, it fired the accused manager. CEO Daniel Zhang took to the company blog to address the incident. Two more execs resigned, and Alibaba pledged to reform its codes of conduct and workplace policies. It also offered (we swear this is true) self defense training for female staff.

In September, prosecutors in the town of Jinan, where the incident is alleged to have occurred, decided not to file charges against the manager. One of the execs who resigned, Li Yonghe, later petitioned the court to require Zhou to issue a grand gesture of an apology in the form of a prominent public statement on a national website for 15 days.

Throughout the timeline, Zhou issued only one statement through her lawyer until her interview with Dahe Daily where she discussed the aftermath –inclusive of subsequent negative mental health, harassment, and the threat of lawsuits from the wives of the executives.

Zhou also expressed indignation at Alibaba's actions:

[Speaking] as a victim of a case who has not yet received the care and help she deserves, Alibaba claims to have set up various so-called organizations to protect the rights of women and employees? Do you really care about women, or are you making a show?

We can't help feeling this story is not yet over. We have asked Alibaba for comment. ®

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