The decision has reignited public debate about a case that rocked the country’s tech industry and led to a reckoning within Alibaba about sexual assault and harassment.
According to screenshots of the 8,000-word account, the woman claimed she was assaulted by her supervisor during a business trip to Jinan, a city in eastern China, while she says she was drunk.
CNN Business cannot confirm the authenticity of the post.
“Forcible indecency” can be either a criminal or administrative offense in China. Criminal forcible indecency is defined as molesting or humiliating a victim, either by violence, coercion or other means. It’s punishable by up to five years in prison.
As an administrative offense, though, forcible indecency is considered punishable, but not illegal. It is more loosely defined in this circumstance as “a person who molests another person.” The maximum punishment is 15 days of detention, rather than a criminal charge.
The news of the man’s release was met with mixed reactions from the Chinese public, who have been following the case since the controversy exploded last month.
Some people thought the 15-day detention was not long enough to discourage future misconduct, and cast doubt on the effectiveness of the administrative law.
A national discussion
The two cases pushed sexual assault into the national consciousness, along with topics like workplace discrimination, the country’s stifled #MeToo movement, a culture of victim-blaming, and the practice of “forced drinking,” or using alcohol-heavy events to secure business deals or build partnerships.
In both cases, swift action from authorities won initial praise from some online, who saw police intervention as an indication of effective rule of law and criminal justice in China. Others, though, argued the high-profile nature of the cases highlighted how rare it is for survivors to speak out and seek justice.
Sexual assault survivors have long faced strong stigma and resistance in China. During the global #MeToo movement in 2018, more women in China spoke out about their experiences with sexual misconduct and assault. That movement, though, was quickly quashed, as the Chinese government blocked online discussion, including censoring the #MeToo hashtag and many related posts.
The recent Alibaba case, though, did spark a reckoning within the company. Two Alibaba executives resigned over the handling of the incident, according to the memo sent by Alibaba CEO Zhang to employees.
The company also pledged to establish a dedicated reporting channel for employees, as well as to create an “anti-sexual harassment policy” that would include input from experts and employees.