China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group, said on Sunday that it had suspended several employees, including senior managers, after one of its employees accused her boss of raping her on a work trip.
The suspension came hours after one of its female employees published an essay on the company’s intranet service in which she said her boss raped her while she was unconscious after a “drunken night” entertaining clients on July 27 in the eastern city of Jinan.
Her essay, which was circulated online, was widely shared on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China. More than 4,000 employees also formed a #MeToo group on the company intranet condemning her boss.
In her essay, the employee said she had reported the incident to Alibaba but was told that the company had decided not to fire her boss “because they were considering my reputation.” She said she was removed from a company chat group after posting her accusations.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Alibaba said several employees had been suspended over their handling of the matter.
“Alibaba Group has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct, and ensuring a safe workplace for all our employees is Alibaba’s top priority,” she said.
“We have suspended relevant parties suspected of violating our policies and values, and we have established a special internal task force to investigate the issue and support the ongoing police investigation.”
After filing a police report, the woman said she viewed video footage outside her hotel room, which showed her boss entering her room four times. She accused him in the essay of duplicating her key to gain entry. She said she woke up nude on the morning of July 28 and found a box of condoms in her room.
In a statement on Sunday, the police in Jinan said they were “actively investigating the evidence” and would inform the public of their findings as soon as possible.
In a post on Alibaba’s intranet, the company’s chief executive, Daniel Zhang, said he was “shocked, angry and ashamed” about the incident. He said the supervisors involved owed the employee an apology for “not handling it quickly,” according to a screenshot of the post viewed by The New York Times.
“This is not just an isolated event,” Mr. Zhang wrote. “Starting from me, the managers, human resources, each of us in Ali must be deeply stirred by this, reflect and take action.”
Alibaba had previously been accused of failing to address gender discrimination. In 2018, Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization based in New York, said that Alibaba, along with the Chinese tech companies Baidu and Tencent, had repeatedly published recruitment ads boasting about the “beautiful girls” working for the companies.
Elsie Chen contributed research.