Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. (File photo: AP)
TAIPEI (TAIWAN): A former employee of the Chinese e-commerce giant Ali Baba has accused her then-manager of raping her on a business trip last year, while pressuring police to review charges in a case that has spotlighted workplace harassment in the country.
The employee claimed in a lengthy online account this week that there were inconsistencies in a police statement about the case that she says led the online victim to blame her. That came a week after a second man in the case was sentenced to 18 months in prison for assault.
The high-profile case launched a national discussion about workplace sexual harassment last year and highlighted the struggles and resistance victims face when coming forward with accusations.
The former Alibaba employee accused her then-manager of attempting to rape her while she was drunk and, at times, unconscious.
Alibaba has fired both the woman and the manager who has been identified only by his last name in police statements Cheek† The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
She criticized the official police account for changing her manager from “one who has objective criminal intentions, a rapist with actual criminal intentions, to a good boss who takes care of his drunken female subordinate.”
“As for me?…I’ve become a slut who falsely accuses the male boss she was on,” she continued.
Her online post said that Wang had asked another Alibaba employee who was his deputy to speak with her after she reported him to police. The employee offered her 600,000 yuan ($90,000) to settle the matter privately, the post said.
Wang did not respond to a request for comment from the company or his wife, who has emerged as its spokesperson and posted many statements online in defense of her husband.
Police were investigating two men in the case. Wang was detained for 15 days, but prosecutors did not approve an arrest on formal charges, saying the actions did not constitute a crime.
The woman identified only by her last name Zhou and her lawyers asked police last year to review the case and charge Wang with rape, but have yet to receive a response.
A court convicted the other man, Zhang Guoa supermarket chain representative in talks with Alibaba, of violent indecency, said he assaulted Zhou twice — once while she was drunk at dinner and the next day in her hotel room.
Zhou has appealed his 18-month sentence, seeking a longer one, her lawyer Du Peng said.
In her post, Zhou asked questions about the police report of what happened that night.
She wrote that her former manager had stolen her ID to have the hotel make a key to her room, and asked the staff to list him as a fellow traveler. She also said that the police concluded that she was unable to express herself clearly when the front desk called to ask for her permission to give him a key.
“He voluntarily canceled his taxi through the app, carried my stolen ID card, went back to the hotel and added himself to my room, and sexually assaulted me,” she told the AP, expanding her post. “All these things show that he not only tried to rape intentionally, but also that he committed a criminal offence.”
A police statement from last August said Wang had had the key made with Zhou’s permission and that he had her ID card, without saying how he got it.
Police in the city of Jinan, where the attack took place, did not respond to a request for comment.
The wives of both accused men have taken to the internet to deny Zhou’s allegations. They insisted that Zhou seduced their husbands.
Wang’s wife, after Zhang’s conviction, wrote that “this whole thing was all voluntary on Zhou’s part, self-directed and self-acting, a little essay full of lies to frame and harm Zhang and Wang.”
While many online commentators have supported Zhou and applauded her courage to speak out, others used the woman’s denials to label Zhou as sexually promiscuous.
Zhou has written about how abandoned she felt after the company initially apologized but later fired her.
She said she developed a mood disorder after going public, and that both she and her husband attempted suicide. Police then held them in a hotel for a month to make sure they didn’t try again, she said. They also told her not to give media interviews.
“I hope I can get a fair outcome, one where the victim is not desperate in the justice system,” she said.