FILE - A woman walks past the offices of Chinese technology firm Alibaba in Beijing, on Aug. 10, 2021. A man involved in a high-profile sexual assault against an Alibaba employee was sentenced to 18 months in prison Wednesday, June 22, 2022, after he
man gets 18 month term for sex assault of alibaba employee

Man gets 18-month term for sex assault of Alibaba employee

HONG KONG — A man involved in a high-profile sexual assault against an Alibaba employee was sentenced to 18 months in prison Wednesday, months after the employee went public about her assault and sparked renewed conversation of the treatment of women in Chinese society.

The defendant, Zhang Guo, was a representative from a supermarket that was in talks for business dealings with Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant. Zhang had met the female Alibaba employee, surnamed Zhou, at a business dinner in July 2021.

Zhou later accused Zhang and another male Alibaba colleague of plying her with alcohol. She said she was sexually assaulted at the dinner, and later again in her hotel room. She went public with her accusations on Alibaba’s internal message board after she said that she had received no satisfactory response from the company.

A court in Jinan on Wednesday found Zhang to be guilty of forcible indecency against Zhou while she was drunk at the dinner and the next day in her hotel room, and sentenced him to prison, according to a statement issued by the court on its official WeChat account.

It also said Zhang did not exhibit remorse nor plead guilty for his actions.

When Zhou went public with her accusations, the case drew much attention online. Alibaba faced backlash for how it handled the situation.

Shortly after, Alibaba fired the male colleague accused of assault and stated that it had “zero tolerance” over sexual assault. The colleague, surnamed Wang, faced a 15-day detention after Chinese prosecutors dropped the case against him.

Zhou’s lawyer, Du Peng, told The Associated Press three other legal cases are pending, one of which was appealing the decision to not prosecute Wang. Zhou did not immediately comment.

In December, Alibaba terminated Zhou’s employment, stating that she was dismissed for spreading false information about her assault and that her actions had negatively impacted the company.

Zhou’s termination came even as Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang pledged to improve the company’s culture and formulate anti-sexual harassment policies at Alibaba.

Alibaba did not immediately comment.

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AP writer Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.

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