Mainland prosecutors have dropped a case against a former Alibaba manager accused by a female colleague of sexual assault, saying they had determined he had committed forcible indecency but not a crime.
Police detained the former manager, whose last name is Wang, in August after a female employee accused him of sexual assault while they were on a business trip to the northern city of Jinan.
The case caused a backlash against the e-commerce firm over how it handles sexual misconduct allegations.
The woman accused Wang of turning a blind eye when she was plied with alcohol and molested during a dinner with a client. She said Wang later entered her hotel room and then sexually assaulted her while she was drunk.
Prosecutors in Jinan did not approve Wang’s arrest and he received a 15-day detention instead, police said. Prosecutors, however, have approved the arrest of the client, who has been identified by his surname Zhang.
Jinan police have accused Wang and Zhang of committing acts of forcible indecency but have not provided details of the acts. The female employee in her account said she was mostly unconscious during the incident and woke up with her clothes removed.
The dropping of the case against Wang drew widespread criticism online, with many lamenting the lack of protection for women in sexual assault cases. Some said Wang’s 15-day detention suggested he was not entirely innocent.
On Weibo, Wang’s wife thanked his team of lawyers in a post yesterday. She previously accused the female employee of framing her husband for sexual misconduct.
Wang was fired from his job after the woman posted an 8,000-word essay with the accusations in an internal post on the company’s intranet and said Alibaba’s human resources department ignored her complaints.
Alibaba also asked two senior executives to resign over their handling of the case. It dismissed 10 employees for sharing screen shots of the female worker’s account of sexual assault allegations, reports said.
Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong pledged to establish an anti-sexual harassment policy with “zero tolerance” for misconduct.
“Alibaba has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct and ensuring a safe workplace for all our employees is our top priority,” the firm said yesterday.
Chinese law says those using violence or coercion to act indecently against others can be sentenced to as much as five years in prison but does not define an indecent act.
The global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment has gained prominence in China in recent years, with accusations made against several academics, a television anchor and celebrities. But convictions are few and far between.
In a recent high-profile case, celebrity Kris Wu Yifan was arrested in Beijing on suspicion of rape after a Chinese influencer accused him of forcing girls to drink alcohol and then sexually assaulting them.