Alibaba Rape Allegation Reveals China Tech’s Bad Side


Over the years, as Alibaba has gone from a grumpy Chinese startup to an e-commerce giant, some business units have welcomed new employees with an ice-breaking ceremony that worried many of those who put up with it.

According to former employees, new hires were required to answer deeply personal questions about their first love, first kiss, and first sexual encounter in front of their colleagues. They said that the questions were expressed in a way that could not be published in this newspaper.

The Chinese tech giant has denied such claims. But last weekend, a female employee alleged On the company’s internal website, she said she was sexually assaulted by a company client and subsequently raped by her manager – and the disclosure revealed a number of stories about her ice-breaking activities. Former employees said they’ve reviewed them online, too.

And in a letter sent to management by more than 6,000 Alibaba employees over the weekend, employees urged the company to ban sexual expressions and games at ice-breaking and other business activities. (Alibaba said it had fired the employee accused of rape and would take further steps to stop the sexual abuse. It did not respond to requests for comment.)

The allegations against Alibaba may have shocked the Chinese tech industry and the public, but they shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

The male-dominated sector has long objectified women, blamed the victims, and normalized sexual violence. Women who dare to talk about sexual harassment and violence are called troublemakers or worse.

Three years ago, a student at the University of Minnesota billionaire founder Richard Liu, one of China’s largest companies, raped her after an alcoholic business lunch. China’s internet and tech industry after Mr. Liu denied the allegations and the police refused to press charges took his side and called him a gold digger, among other misogynistic insults.

Often times, public claims are simply not addressed. An employee of ride-hailing company Didi was fired last year for poor performance after she complained to the company’s operations in Jiangsu Province that she was physically and sexually assaulted after being forced to binge drink at a business dinner. She later posted social media photos of her badly bruised face and a doctor’s diagnosis. Didi did not respond to questions about whether she had investigated her allegations when asked for comment back then or this week.

One female tech investor said that events like those on Alibaba are occurring across the industry. Some asked for anonymity because they were worried that entrepreneurs who made dirty jokes in large chat groups would think that he was too judgmental and would stop trusting him.

The industry has softened some of its most obvious and overt behavior. For example, more recently hired Alibaba employees said they don’t have to answer personal questions at ice-breaking ceremonies.

And if society doesn’t force them to change, the Communist Party will. The party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily, warned that “nothing is too big to fail” on social media amid government crackdown on Big Tech’s powers.

But the toxic culture of the Chinese tech industry is so ingrained that it will not be easy to eradicate.

Not so long ago, Chinese tech companies invited popular Japanese pornstars to their events to promote. Qihoo 360, a cybersecurity company, is targeting a Japanese porn star. dance In 2014, along with its programmers, some female employees wore revealing clothes.

A business unit at Tencent, China’s other internet giant, recruited female employees at a 2017 event kneel down and use their mouths to open water bottles held by their male colleagues in their crotch. Tencent later apologized.

Search giant Baidu, smartphone maker Xiaomi, and have held Victoria’s Secret-style lingerie fashion shows at their annual celebrations over the years. Sometimes the models were their female employees.

At the time, few people condemned his actions, if any. Some programmers reacted by asking if these companies were hiring.

Women everywhere face the same challenges. But in China’s tech industry, these attitudes have been transferred from internet giants like Alibaba to graduates who now run start-ups big and small.

Cheng Wei, Didi’s founder and a former Alibaba executive, borrowed much of his management style from the e-commerce giant, which he calls real educational material. One of Didi’s first employees told a magazine that several new employees were shocked at how far the ice-breaking ceremony could go. profile The employee said he felt closer to his colleagues after learning about his personal information.

One former employee, who asked not to be identified, said she was terrified of not answering these questions because she feared angering her colleagues and manager.

Even penalties at tech companies can be sexual in nature. Mr. Cheng’s aforementioned punished a male ruler by ordering him to “run naked”. A former Didi executive explained that although men wear their underwear and women can wear paper clothes over their underwear, others were also told to run around the company campus in their first year.

The manager and other employees said that the practice has disappeared in recent years.

The Alibaba crisis also sparked discussions about two misogynistic rituals at Chinese business dinners: forced drinking and the women’s company.

Young ladies can be considered as accessories at business dinners. Read the headline of a 2017 column in the Chinese edition of “Eating without a girl is not eating” magazine. GQ, accompanied by a picture of naked women in soup bowls.

The female employee said that her manager told her customers at dinner, “Look how good I am, I brought you a beauty,” in allegations published on Alibaba’s internal website.

The Alibaba customer she alleged sexually assaulted her denied doing anything inappropriate. “It was a normal meal,” the customer told a Beijing newspaper. “I just hugged and hugged. Nothing else.” (His company said he was fired for misconduct and cooperated with a police investigation.)

The Alibaba employee wrote that his nightmare started after he was forced to drink too much.

Forced drinking plays an important and problematic role in China’s business culture. It can serve as a power play that puts women and young workers at a disadvantage. Refusing to drink with a supervisor is considered offensive.

A bank manager at a business dinner last year slapped A new employee after refusing the manager’s order to replace his soft drinks with alcohol. The bank then disciplined the manager.

In a weekend call to action, Alibaba employees urged the company to ban forced drinking and stop associating alcohol with work. The company stopped banning it, saying it supports its employees’ right to refuse drink requests.

Alibaba said it fired the executive accused of rape and fired two senior executives who ignored the woman’s pleas. Still, his response left many people unhappy.

Wang Shuai, Alibaba’s PR chief, republished a post he said was written by a colleague. The post complained that some people believed the rumors and Alibaba took the worst of it. The post said that people who were too critical of the company might openly walk away.

In response, the public drew attention to the sections at the top where they said they indicated problems.

A widely circulated video showed Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba, making a sex joke. hosting A group wedding ceremony for its employees in 2019, an annual event that typically makes headlines for the company. weekdays. “We want 669 in life,” he said. “Six days, six times. The key is longevity.”

He played with the pronunciation of the word “nine,” meaning “longevity.” The audience cheered and applauded.


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