Alibaba CEO sacks manager accused of rape, condemns 'forced drinking culture'

Beijing (AFP) –


Alibaba's CEO on Monday said he will fire a manager accused of rape, and condemned an "ugly forced drinking culture" as one of China's most famous firms faces public outcry over the scandal.

Sexual assault has got increasing attention in China recently, with celebrities -- including Chinese-Canadian superstar Kris Wu, who was accused of rape -- facing investigations and legal charges.

In the latest high-profile allegation, an unidentified employee at e-commerce giant Alibaba accused her manager and a client of sexual assault during a work trip to eastern China, according to media reports.

She was allegedly made to drink and later sexually assaulted.

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang issued an internal memo to staff -- seen by AFP -- condemning the attack and his own company's initial handling of the complaint.

He said internal investigations found the accused had confessed to "intimate acts" with the woman while she was inebriated, violating company policy.

"He will be fired and never be rehired," he said, adding the issue was now with the police.

Zhang also hit out at an "ugly forced drinking culture", a business practice that has come under fire including at Alibaba.

"Regardless of gender, whether it is a request made by a customer or a supervisor, our employees are empowered to reject it," Zhang said.

The victim originally brought up the alleged assault to senior managers, according to a letter circulating on Chinese social media.

She eventually decided to go public.

Her case quickly went viral on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform, with a hashtag of the incident now viewed 820 million times.

The president of Alibaba's neighbourhood retail business group Li Yonghe, and its human resources generalist Xu Kun, have resigned, the company said.

They had failed to take appropriate action "when the employee reported a horrendous act such as rape", said Zhang in the memo.

Meanwhile, Alibaba pledged to establish a dedicated reporting channel for its more than 254,000 staff.

Alibaba has already been under government scrutiny, with regulators in the midst of a broad campaign to rein in the growing clout of tech giants.