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Alibaba releases anti-sexual harassment measures and reshuffles leadership deck after sex scandal

Written by Jiaxing Li, Mengyuan Ge Published on     3 mins read

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After repeated sexual misconduct allegations, Alibaba is working to implement a number of schemes and protocols to prevent future incidents.

Alibaba released an internal letter to its employees on Thursday and mapped out its latest measures against sexual harassment. It formed a committee of five female executives to deal with internal sexual harassment cases. An independent investigation team will handle all sexual harassment complaints. The company also set up a hotline and an email for reporting sexual misconduct.

The measures come after a female employee posted a note on Alibaba’s internal discussion board to say that she was sexually assaulted last week. In the 11-page-long accusation, she said that she was forced to drink too much alcohol during a business trip to Jinan in July and was later sexually assaulted by her supervisor, Wang Chengwen, in her hotel room. She said a client did the same as well.

Earlier this week, Alibaba fired Wang. Two senior executives who mishandled the case resigned, including CEO for local services Li Yonghe and a senior HR employee.

The case sparked widespread discussion on China’s social media platforms as internet companies have long been seen as workplaces that condone misogynistic culture. Tech giants like Alibaba used to feature explicit adult content during their annual parties, business dinners, and other events.

During a collective wedding of Alibaba employees in 2019, Jack Ma inappropriately joked in his speech that employees “want 669. Six times during six days, and the key is to last a long time.” (The number nine is a homonym of “long-lasting.”)

Some employees posted on social media that “icebreaker” games during team building exercises often involved questions related to their sexual pasts and experiences.

Alibaba stated in its internal letter that the company will establish a sexual harassment prevention scheme and promote gender equality in the workplace. Rules on sexual misconduct are currently under discussion. It is unclear whether the newly established committee formed by five women executives is involved in this process.

It also said that the internal investigation of female employees’ complaints is nearly completed, and the results will be announced as soon as possible.

The alleged rape that took place in July is still under investigation by local police, the solicitor of the female employee said. KrASIA contacted the Jinan Public Security Bureau and Huaiyin Sub-bureau, but did not receive a response.

Yu Yongfu, general manager of Alibaba’s local services division, has taken over as CEO of the business arm after Li Yonghe resigned for mishandling the complaint made by the woman who said she was raped by Wang.

There have been two leadership changes at Alibaba’s local services division in the past two months. First, in early July, Alibaba announced business overhauls to reorganize its lifestyle services, placing Ele.me, local commerce platform Koubei, travel booking platform Fliggy, and map app AutoNavi under the same umbrella. At the time, Li Yonghe took the helm and reported directly to Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group.

An employee of the life services section told 36Kr that the restructuring was completed just last month. Yu Yongfu’s resignation is seen as a setback to Alibaba’s efforts to restructure its business and face off with companies like Meituan.

Read this: Alleged sexual misconduct by Alibaba manager shines spotlight on sexist corporate culture (again)

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