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Businessman linked to Alibaba China rape case gets 18 months

by YAR

When a young female employee of Alibaba, one of China’s largest tech companies, accused her manager and a company client of sexually assaulting her after a booze-filled work dinner last summer, it seemed like a turning point for the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement.

Months later, it hadn’t developed that way.

In September, prosecutors decided not to charge the woman’s boss because they said her behavior did not constitute a crime. In November, Alibaba fired the woman, who has been identified by police and her lawyers only by her last name, Zhou. The company claimed that Ms. Zhou had damaged her reputation by spreading falsehoods.

But now, in the latest development, a Chinese court on Wednesday found Zhang Guo, the company’s client whom Zhou accused of sexually assaulting her along with her boss, guilty of “forced indecency.” He ordered Mr. Zhang to serve 18 months in prison, making it one of the few high-profile cases of men in China being held accountable after allegations of sexual assault.

The Huaiyin District People’s Court in eastern China wrote in its ruling that according to its findings, Mr. Zhang took advantage of Ms. Zhou’s intoxication and abused her near the restaurant’s reception and in a dining room. private. He also found that Mr. Zhang went to her hotel room the next day and assaulted her again.

Alibaba fired Ms Zhou’s former boss, identified in news reports by his surname Wang, in August after Ms Zhou publicly accused him of rape. Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s court decision against Zhang. Feng Yanqiang, Mr. Zhang’s lawyer, said the verdict was wrong and found his client innocent. Mr. Zhang stated in court that he planned to appeal the decision, his lawyer said.

Ms. Zhou said in written responses to questions that Mr. Zhang’s sentence was shorter than she expected. She said the episode had caused her mental and physical health to deteriorate, and that she was concerned that the court’s decision would discourage other women from coming forward in China.

“I cannot easily encourage more women to be strong and courageous, because I know how painful and difficult this process is,” she said. But instead of “dying” without answers, she added, “one must choose to fight hard and get justice.”

The incident drew national attention last year when Ms. Zhou stood up and shouted about sexual assault at one of Alibaba’s coffee shops. A video posted online showed her loudly accusing her bosses and human resources of ignoring her complaints. As the video spread on social media, it sparked an uproar among viewers angry at the many prejudices and power imbalances women face in China.

The #MeToo movement has struggled to gain momentum in the country. Women who accuse men of sexual harassment or creating a toxic workplace are frequently met with criticism online. Institutions promote messages of female empowerment, but many women say allegations of misconduct by colleagues or superiors are often ignored.

The court said on Wednesday that the prosecution provided “reliable and sufficient evidence” to build the case against Mr. Zhang. He said that Mr. Zhang did not confess or apologize. Chinese media said that neither Ms. Zhou nor Mr. Wang, who were listed as witnesses, appeared in court during the two-day trial in early June.

claire fu contributed research.

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