A police investigation into the alleged rape of an Alibaba employee surnamed Zhou during a business trip in July has led to the detention of two men, including a former Alibaba manager named Wang Chengwen and a client surnamed Zhang, who represented Hualian Supermarket. Both Wang and Zhang are suspected of committing acts of “forced indecency” against Zhou, whose recounting of the July incident has set off heated discussions about internet companies’ misogynistic culture. The police, however, said there is insufficient evidence that Zhou was raped.
This development follows widespread discussion within the structures of Alibaba. Zhou, who claimed she was raped, posted an 11-page note on an internal discussion board detailing what she could recall from the episode, reigniting stalled conversations about the sexist culture that exists within some of China’s tech companies.
The case is now under investigation by police in Jinan, where the incident took place, according to an official statement posted on Weibo.
Last week, Wang was fired from Alibaba for committing “inappropriate intimate behaviors” with a member of his team. Two senior executives who mishandled Zhou’s complaint resigned.
Police said they have gathered witness testimony and surveillance footage to determine that Wang entered Zhou’s hotel room four times between the night of July 27 and the early morning of July 28, during which he is suspected of committing sexual assault. During his second visit to Zhou’s room, Wang ordered condoms to be delivered to the hotel’s front desk, but did not pick them up.
At the time, there is insufficient evidence to formally charge Wang or Zhang with rape, according to a statement from the police. There is also insufficient evidence to indicate the two men had forced Zhou to drink excessively during dinner, as Zhou had claimed.
Senior management at Alibaba issued an internal letter to say the company will formulate a sexual harassment prevention initiative 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.
Zhang was fired by Hualian Supermarket last week.
Zhou’s case has received widespread coverage in Chinese media. Other tech companies have reacted by enacting rules against sexual harassment and potentially harmful behavior. iQiyi, for example, has banned the practice of forcing employees to attend evening banquets and drink large quantities of alcohol, according to 36Kr.