Former NIO Intern Claims Unfair Treatment after Sexual Assault

Chinese leading electric vehicle maker NIO became a central topic on Chinese social media over the weekend after a former intern said she was sexually assaulted and then treated unfairly while working at the company.

A lady posted on the evening of March 3 that during her first month at NIO, a male colleague somehow entered her room late at night and tried to rape her. After a two hour struggle wherein the woman rebuffed his advances, the man was unsuccessful and the incident was recorded by her. She then called the police and the man was arrested at the scene. Due to the evidence, the man was quickly convicted and has been sentenced to 10 months in prison.

After a long time, she received feedback that the incident would not be retained by the company. According to her post, her performance during her tenure had been outstanding, and the products for which she was responsible had created great value for the company, but NIO said that “she is a risky person” and the incident would “affect the image of the company”.

At the end of October last year, the now former intern published a recruitment announcement about an internship on “Cloud Engineering – Visual Direction”, and used words such as “the most reliable” and “the warmest” to describe NIO‘s autopilot team.

On March 4, NIO released a statement on Weibo saying that the lady was a former intern and that the assailant was also a former intern. “The facts that have been learned so far are that according to the victim’s report, on Saturday, August 6, 2022, an intern surnamed Xu attempted to rape her after asking her out. The victim called the police and Xu was then taken into custody. On August 18, 2022, Xu was arrested. On August 19, the company terminated the internship relationship with Xu,” according to NIO‘s post.

“The victim posted that she was not retained by the company and was discriminated against as a result of the above incident. The investigation team is looking into her internship retention process and in particular whether she was treated unfairly in the process,” NIO added.

NIO‘s response was questioned by many netizens, such as “repeating some nonsense,” “their public relations ability is like a disaster.” Some even said, “As a woman, I promise not to buy NIO vehicles for life.”

On March 5, the lady made another post, saying that NIO‘s response disappointed her. She included several pages of the incident description, a timeline, several refutations to the company’s points, in addition to chat screenshots, internship certificate photos, criminal judgment photos and other evidence. NIO mentioned that her departure was on February 28 which, according to her, is inaccurate, adding that she officially left on February 13. She believed that NIO has confused the resignation timeline, and has made many people believe that her revelation was caused by the work dispute.

The lady also questioned NIO‘s description of the event, particularly the words “on Saturday, an intern named Xu asked her out”, which could be considered as a private association between the two employees during non-working hours. She said that Xu asked her out for team bonding, but that she declined many times before deciding to finally participate.

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In addition, the former intern indicated that she had received many complaints from employees who are still working for or have left NIO, saying that they too had encountered sexual harassment. She said that her demands never included staying in the office, compensation, etc. She only hoped that NIO could acknowledge the neglect and mishandling of sexual harassment in the workplace in the past, apologize for them, and improve the company’s anti-harassment policy.