Alibaba Faces Reckoning Over Harassment

At an worker dinner, ladies had been informed to rank the attractiveness of the lads on the desk. During a team-building train, a lady was pressured to straddle her male co-worker in entrance of colleagues. Top executives traded lewd feedback about male virility at firm occasions and on-line.

The e-commerce large Alibaba, certainly one of China’s most globalized web corporations, has usually celebrated the variety of ladies in its senior ranks. In 2018, the corporate’s billionaire co-founder, Jack Ma, informed a convention in Geneva that one secret to Alibaba’s success was that 49 % of staff had been ladies.

But that message of feminine empowerment is now being known as into query after an Alibaba worker accused her boss of raping her after an alcohol-fueled enterprise dinner. The girl, who has been recognized by the police and her legal professionals solely by her surname, Zhou, stated bosses and human sources had shrugged off her complaints. She finally resorted to screaming concerning the assault in an organization cafeteria final month.

“An Ali male executive raped a female subordinate, and no one in the company has pursued this,” Ms. Zhou yelled, in keeping with a video that was posted on the web.

In a statement to The Times, Alibaba said fostering a safe and supportive workplace was its top priority.

“When we have fallen short, we believe in taking responsibility and holding ourselves accountable,” the statement said.

Alibaba made immediate changes to the way it handles workplace culture and misconduct matters after Ms. Zhou’s case came to light, the statement said. Upon examining its policies and reporting processes, the company found “certain areas that did not meet our standards,” the statement said.

The statement did not address any of the specific allegations made by the former employees who spoke to The Times.

Many Alibaba departments use games and other ice-breaking activities to make co-workers feel at ease with one another. Kiki Qian joined the company in 2017. Her team welcomed her with a game of charades. When she lost, she said, she was punished by being made to “fly the plane,” as her co-workers called it. The stunt involved straddling a male colleague as he sat in an office chair. The colleague then lay back in the chair, causing Ms. Qian to fall on top of him, face first.

“I realized while carrying out the punishment that it could be a little perverted,” Ms. Qian, 28, said in a telephone interview.

On a separate occasion, Ms. Qian said, she saw a woman burst into tears after being pressured to jump into the arms of a male colleague during a team game.

Other former Alibaba employees said ice-breaking rituals included uncomfortable questions about their sexual histories. One former employee said she and other women at a team dinner had been asked to rank their male colleagues by attractiveness. Another said she had felt humiliated during a game in which employees were required to touch each other on the shoulders, back and thighs.

“I heard it was seven times a day for some people before joining Alibaba, but not even once in seven days after,” he said. “This is a big problem.”

Last month, Ms. Zhou shared her rape accusation on Alibaba’s internal website. According to her account of the events, her boss told a male client who was also at the alcohol-fueled business dinner, “Look how good I am to you; I brought you a beauty,” referring to Ms. Zhou.

Boozy meals have long been widespread in corporate China, where it can be seen as offensive to refuse to drink with a superior. Three days after Ms. Zhou reported the assault to Alibaba, her boss still had not been fired, she wrote in her account. She was told that this was out of consideration for her reputation.

“This ridiculous logic,” she wrote. “Just who are they protecting?”

Elsie Chen contributed reporting. Albee Zhang and Claire Fu contributed research.

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