1. News
September 7, 2021

Chinese Alibaba sexual assault case dropped, prosecutors say ‘forcible indecency’ not a crime

By Elles Houweling

Chinese prosecutors have dropped charges against a former Alibaba manager accused of sexual assault, ending a case that many hoped would become a milestone in China’s #MeToo movement.

Authorities in Jinan, in Shandong province, found that the ex-Alibaba manager, Wang Chengwen, had committed forcible indecency, which was not considered a crime.

He was instead ordered to be detained for 15 days, in accordance with Article 44 of the administrative Public Security Management Punishment Law. Article 44 stipulates a 15-day detention as the maximum punishment for someone who molests another or intentionally exposes themselves “with other serious circumstances”.

Following his release, many netizens took to Chinese social media lamenting the lack of accountability for sexual assault cases in China. Human Rights Watch China researcher, Yaqiu Wang, said on Twitter that it was “another case of online #MeToo furore failing to turn into real-life accountability.”

Last month, a female employee at Alibaba published a detailed testimony on an internal forum, alleging that her manager had raped her during a business trip. She said that when she reported the incident to senior management, no actions were taken.

Her letter was later leaked on social media, where it ignited a debate about China’s #MeToo movement and the ongoing toxic work culture in the tech industry.

In response to the nationwide backlash, Alibaba decided to fire the supervisor in question. CEO Daniel Zhang issued an apology, saying that, while the police in Jinan were still investigating the incident, Alibaba had decided to penalise the manager and other staff members after it “gained clarity on some critical facts on the handling of the incident.”

Zhu Xiuyuan of law firm Zhejiang Kangsheng told the Financial Times that Wang could have been released because of lack of evidence or because authorities deemed his behaviour as not serious enough to merit prosecution.