When a younger feminine worker at Alibaba, one among China’s greatest expertise corporations, accused her supervisor and an organization consumer of sexually assaulting her after an alcohol-fueled work dinner final summer season, it appeared like a turning level for the nation’s fledgling #MeToo motion.

Months later, it had not performed out that method.

In September, prosecutors determined not to cost the lady’s boss as a result of they mentioned his habits didn’t represent against the law. In November, Alibaba fired the lady, who has been recognized by the police and her attorneys solely by her surname, Zhou. The firm claimed Ms. Zhou had broken its fame by spreading falsehoods.

But now, within the newest improvement, a Chinese court docket on Wednesday discovered Zhang Guo — the corporate consumer whom Ms. Zhou accused of sexually assaulting her alongside along with her boss — responsible of “forcible indecency.” It ordered Mr. Zhang to serve 18 months in jail, changing into one of many few high-profile cases of males in China being held accountable after accusations of sexual assault.

The People’s Court of Huaiyin District in japanese China wrote in its ruling that, in accordance to its findings, Mr. Zhang took benefit of Ms. Zhou’s intoxication and that he molested her close to the restaurant’s entrance desk and in a personal eating room. It additionally discovered that Mr. Zhang went to her resort room the following day and assaulted her once more.

Alibaba fired Ms. Zhou’s former boss, recognized in information reviews by his surname, Wang, in August after Ms. Zhou publicly accused him of rape. Alibaba didn’t instantly reply to a request for a remark about Wednesday’s court docket choice towards Mr. Zhang. Feng Yanqiang, Mr. Zhang’s lawyer, mentioned the decision was mistaken and known as his consumer harmless. Mr. Zhang acknowledged in court docket that he deliberate to enchantment the choice, his lawyer mentioned.

Ms. Zhou mentioned in written responses to questions that Mr. Zhang’s sentence was shorter than what she had anticipated. She mentioned that the episode had induced her psychological and bodily well being to deteriorate, and that she fearful the court docket’s choice would discourage different girls from coming ahead in China.

“I can’t easily encourage more women to be strong and brave, because I know how painful and difficult this process is,” she mentioned. But as a substitute of “dying” with out solutions, she added, “one should opt to fight hard and get justice.”

The incident attracted nationwide consideration final 12 months when Ms. Zhou stood up and screamed in regards to the sexual assault in one among Alibaba’s cafeterias. A video posted on-line confirmed her loudly accusing her bosses and human sources of ignoring her complaints. As the video unfold on social media, it induced an uproar amongst viewers offended with the numerous biases and energy imbalances girls in China face.

The #MeToo motion has struggled to acquire momentum within the nation. Women who accuse males of sexual harassment or of making a poisonous office are continuously met with vitriol on-line. Institutions promote messages of feminine empowerment, however many ladies say accusations of misconduct by colleagues or superiors are sometimes ignored.

The court docket on Wednesday mentioned the prosecution supplied “reliable and sufficient evidence” in constructing the case towards Mr. Zhang. It mentioned Mr. Zhang didn’t confess nor had he requested for forgiveness. Chinese information media mentioned that neither Ms. Zhou nor Mr. Wang, who had been each listed as witnesses, appeared in court docket in the course of the two-day trial in early June.

Claire Fu contributed analysis.

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