Prosecutors in China have dropped a lawsuit against a former Alibaba Group employee accused of sexually assaulting a female coworker, claiming that he had engaged in forcible indecency but not a crime.
A female Alibaba employee wrote an 11-page account on Alibaba's intranet in August alleging that a manager and a client sexually assaulted her during a business trip to Jinan, eastern China.
The employee, identified by his surname Wang, was detained by police last month.
She claimed that her superiors and human resources did not take her report seriously, which sparked a public outcry against the e-commerce powerhouse, which later fired Wang and suspended other executives.
Prosecutors were considering whether to charge Wang with "forcible indecency," a broad category that includes sexual assault but does not include rape, according to state-owned CCTV.
However, because Wang's actions were not considered a crime, local police arrested him for an administrative penalty of "indecency," which has a maximum penalty of 15 days. Plaintiffs can file civil lawsuits on their own.
The late Monday ruling reignited online debate about the treatment of female employees in China's workplaces, where the #MeToo movement has yet to gain traction as it has in the U.S.
Prosecutors, however, have given their approval for the arrest of the client, who goes by the surname Zhang.
Alibaba stated that it has a "zero-tolerance" policy for sexual misconduct in response to the prosecutors' decision.
"Alibaba Group has a zero-tolerance policy against sexual misconduct, and ensuring a safe workplace for all our employees is Alibaba's top priority," the company said in a statement sent to Bloomberg News on Tuesday.
The allegations made by the female employee, which she detailed in an 8,000-word account, reverberated throughout Alibaba and other tech companies across the country.
Two senior executives at the e-commerce company have since resigned, and CEO Daniel Zhang has called the incident's handling a "humiliation."
The debate took place against a backdrop of intense government scrutiny of issues ranging from anti-monopoly violations to low-wage worker treatment, particularly in the powerful tech industry.
A former employee of Jinan Hualian Supermarket, who was also present at the dinner with the Alibaba employee, was arrested in August and charged with sexual misconduct.