Ex-Alibaba employee warns going public causes victims ‘hurt’

An employee of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba who was fired after she went public with a sexual assault allegation says she is not encouraging other victims in China to come forward because doing so “will only cause them to suffer more hurt.”

The employee, surnamed Zhou, had gone public in August with accusations that a fellow employee had sexually assaulted her during a business trip. The case prompted a public outcry over the handling of sexual assault cases in China.

In an interview with Chinese newspaper Dahe Daily published on Saturday, Zhou said that she had received many messages from other women who said they too had been plied with alcohol and sexually assaulted during work-related events. Most of them did not come forward, choosing instead to tolerate it or resign.

“My heart hurts for these people, but I can understand why they chose to deal with it this way,” said Zhou to Dahe Daily. “I will not appeal to other victims of sexual assault to come forth and share their stories, as doing so could cause them to suffer even more hurt.”

“I hope that (they) can eventually walk out of their trauma and lead a normal and ordinary life,” she said.

In November, Zhou had been sent a letter informing her about the termination of her employment, according to documents seen by The Associated Press.

Her termination came even as Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang pledged in a public memo in August to form an anti-sexual harassment policy and said that the employee accused of the assault had been fired.

According to the letter from Alibaba subsidiary Zhejiang Tmall Technology Co. Ltd., she was dismissed for spreading false information about her assault and how the company had allegedly not handled the issue appropriately. Her actions had negatively impacted the company, the letter read.

Alibaba did not comment on the issue.

Zhou’s dismissal from Alibaba came weeks after Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai posted a social media post alleging that she was sexually assaulted by former top Communist Party official Zhang Gaoli. Peng has largely remained out of the public eye since the accusations, stoking concerns that her safety may be at stake.

In August, Zhou had published a lengthy 8,000-word post on Alibaba’s internal system detailing the alleged sexual assault by a fellow employee and a client during a business trip the month before. She claimed that Alibaba did not take the matter seriously when she reported the assault.

Chinese prosecutors in September dropped the case against the former Alibaba employee surnamed Wang accused of sexual assault, instead giving him a 15-day detention. Zhou has since filed an appeal against the decision.

Prosecutors however issued an arrest warrant for Zhang, the client whom Zhou had accused of also assaulting her.

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Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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