Tencent’s annual parties reportedly used to include disturbing activities demeaning to women, as shown in the videos that reappeared online. The company event shown in the video took place in 2017. Since then, the Chinese tech giant has apologized for the behavior seen in the footage and promised to tackle it “head-on”.
In the 2017 video, female employees have to use their mouths to remove caps from water bottles gripped between their male colleagues’ thighs. The activity was apparently part of an “ice-breaker” party at the company.
— 亚洲金融 (@AsiaFinance) August 8, 2021
Another video shows a weird interaction in which male employees touched women’s breasts and rubbed them.
— 老司机 (@yeyu713092) August 9, 2021
According to Marketing Interactive, these videos caused controversy on Chinese social media in 2017, with people reportedly calling these actions “disgusting” and “shameful.”
In response, Tencent issued the following statement: “We will tackle this problem head-on and correct our values, and we want to say sorry to our female colleagues. The annual party is a department activity, and represents the company’s image; we’ve lapsed in our oversight of the party games, and have caused much inconvenience.”
At that time, an anonymous Weibo user, who claimed to be a former Tencent employee, said that sexually suggestive party games had been a “long tradition” at the company, including its “games division.”
“As a former Tencent employee, this isn’t surprising – it’s a long-standing tradition. At a games division annual party three years ago, there was another lurid game where colleagues had to kiss each other through a piece of tissue; a female colleague refused, but was pressured into doing it. I feel embarrassed that I worked at Tencent, and I hope the executives can reflect and stop the sexist behaviour from happening again.”
While things could have changed at Tencent over the last few years, it’s just another testament to a very troubled and very recent past that our industry is yet to even begin to leave behind.
P.S. It should also be noted that the Tencent videos are gaing traction again as another Chinese tech giant, Alibaba, is dealing with its own case of sexual harassment. And it’s not an isolated incident, either. In China, “women have to endure sexist practices and language at the workplace on a daily basis,” Yaqiu Wang, researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Fortune.
This can change. The #MeToo movement might not have reached the same magnitude in China as it did in the West, but the country’s female professionals are now “much more willing to stand up and speak against sexual harassment and assault,” according to Wang. Perhaps, it’s not too late for Tencent’s female employees who suffered harassment back in 2017 to bring those responsible to reckoning.