A female employee of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba who accused a colleague of sexual assault has been fired for “expressing and communicating inappropriate opinions, fabricating and spreading false facts, (and) causing vile consequences,” her lawyer told CBS News in a written response to questions.
The employee, identified only as Ms. Zhou, went public in August with allegations that she was raped by a colleague on a business trip, after she said the company took no action against him when she reported it to human resources.
In an 11-page document, Zhou said that a colleague, identified as Mr. Wang, who was more senior than her at Alibaba, coerced her into taking a business trip to meet a client, BBC News reported. She said she was ordered to drink alcohol during dinner, and that the client kissed her.
When she woke up the next day in her hotel room, she had no clothes on and no memory of the previous night. She was able to obtain security camera footage which showed Wang entering her room four times, the BBC said.
Wang was eventually fired from Alibaba after a fierce public backlash, but a criminal case against him was dropped, according to the BBC. The company said that two other employees who had failed to act on Zhou’s report had also resigned. Alibaba issued a statement condemning “forced drinking culture,” according to BBC News.
Alibaba had not responded to CBS News’ request for comment at time of publication.
Zhou’s case caused an outcry on social media in China and highlighted the treatment some women there face in the workplace. It wasn’t the first blow to a #MeToo movement that has struggled to gain momentum in the country.
In a similar case, a Chinese court threw out a lawsuit in September brought by a woman who had claimed she was sexually harassed as an intern by a major personality from the country’s state-run TV network. The court dismissed her case, saying the evidence submitted by her legal team had failed to prove any harassment occurred. The man she accused filed a lawsuit against her claiming defamation.
Zhou’s lawyer said that she was fired on November 25 and not paid any severance — which is against the law in China unless an employer can prove negligence or incompetence — and that she would be suing.
Shuai Zhang contributed to this report.
Haley Ott is a digital reporter/producer for CBS News based in London.