Prosecutors drop sexual assault case against ex-Alibaba manager

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – Prosecutors in the northern Chinese city of Jinan decided to drop their case against a former Alibaba manager accused of sexual assault by a subordinate, meaning he will not face further criminal charges in a case that has shocked China’s technology industry.

The manager, surnamed Wang, had been probed after a female colleague accused him of sexual assault following an alcohol-fuelled dinner with clients. The Jinan prosecutors’ office did not approve his arrest, according to a statement released on Weibo from the city’s police, although he received a 15-day administrative detention.

The charges that Wang faced, roughly translated as “forcible indecency”, do not constitute an infraction to be prosecuted under criminal statutes, state-owned CCTV reported. “Released at dawn,” Wang’s wife posted on Weibo on Tuesday (Sept 7).

The late Monday ruling triggered renewed debate online about the treatment of female workers in companies across China, where the #MeToo movement has failed to take off as widely as countries like the US. The police’s statement generated thousands of comments on Weibo, with many users questioning the decision and expressing anger over failure to protect women at work.

“Alibaba Group has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct, and ensuring a safe workplace for all our employees is Alibaba’s top priority,” the company said in a statement sent to Bloomberg News on Tuesday.

The female employee’s allegations, which she published in an 8,000-word account, reverberated throughout Alibaba and tech firms across the country. Two senior executives at the e-commerce giant have since resigned and chief executive Daniel Zhang called his company’s handling of the incident a “humiliation”.

The debate coincided with intense government scrutiny on issues ranging from anti-monopoly violations to the treatment of low-wage workers, particularly in the powerful tech industry.

In August, police arrested a former employee of Jinan Hualian Supermarket who was also present at the dinner with the Alibaba employee and is accused of sexual misconduct. The Jinan police declined to provide further comment.

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