Client who molested Alibaba worker jailed for 18 months in China

·3-min read

A court in eastern China sentenced a client of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group to 18 months in prison for molesting a former female Alibaba employee.

The man, Zhang Guo, met the former employee, Zhou, in July 2021 at a dinner. While Zhou was inebriated, Zhang molested her at the restaurant and again in her hotel room the next morning, the Huaiyin District People’s Court in Jinan in eastern Shandong province on Wednesday.

“The court held that the defendant, Zhang Guo, violated the will of the victim and molested her when she was drunk. His behaviour constituted the crime of coerced molestation,” the court said.

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Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, has not responded to a request for comment.

According to China’s criminal law, those who force, molest or humiliate a woman by violence, coercion or other means should be sentenced to a maximum five years of fixed-term imprisonment or criminal detention.

Zhou told Chinese media outlet Cover News she read the verdict in news reports and felt she had waited for a long time for this result.

“I feel wronged, extremely sad, but nobody can empathise with me,” she said.

Meanwhile, Zhang’s wife said the family would appeal.

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The incident became public on August 8 after Zhou posted an account of her ordeal on social media in China. In the post, she accused her direct supervisor at the time of rape and a client of molesting her during the business dinner.

She alleged that an executive of Taoxianda – a fresh food delivery service under Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace business – forced her to go to a business dinner in Jinan on July 27. She was intoxicated, which led to a client molesting her at the restaurant, she wrote.

Afterwards, the supervisor took her to a hotel and entered her room four times, she wrote. After she woke up the next day and found herself naked, she reported to the police.

She also accused Alibaba senior managers of neglecting her complaints.

In an internal memo, Alibaba chairman and chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong said he was “shocked, angered and ashamed” by the case and demanded a thorough investigation.

Taoxianda fired the supervisor, who was identified by his family name Wang, the day after Zhang Yong issued the internal memo and punished several company executives for mishandling the incident.

Jinan police said in a statement in mid-August their investigation confirmed that Wang had molested Zhou but that rape did not occur. Zhang Guo had molested Zhou at the restaurant and in the hotel room.

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In September Jinan police said Wang’s actions did not constitute a crime and dropped the investigation. His punishment was 15 days of detention.

The case has triggered heated debate about work culture, gender equality and #MeToo campaigns in China.

A few months later, more controversy arose as Zhou told the state-backed news outlet Dahe Daily in Henan province that Alibaba fired her for spreading “false information” that negatively affected the company.

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