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Chinese tech and entertainment giant Tencent has found itself at the center of a public relations firestorm after a sexually suggestive video leaked from an official company party.
The clip, which has gone viral across Chinese social media, shows female Tencent employees kneeling in front of male colleagues onstage during a year-end event for staff. As an announcer shouts encouragement, the women are seen trying to use their mouths to open water bottles tucked between the men’s legs. Co-workers in the audience can be heard cheering them on. (See the video below.)
Tencent issued a statement condemning the incident and saying it was the result of poor oversight. It promised not to repeat the mistake.
Critics say the video reflects the sexism and harassment that remains pervasive in the tech industry and Chinese corporate culture at large. Many have noted that Tencent, Asia’s largest tech company by market cap, doesn’t have a single female board member or division chief.
E-commerce giant Alibaba has been hailed for its encouragement of female leadership — 11 of the company’s 34 partners are women, according to Bloomberg. But Alibaba generated a damning incident of its own in 2015, when it posted a job ad seeking women resembling a Japanese porn star to serve as “encouragement specialists” for programmers.
Chinese search giant Baidu also has been hit by controversy. The company demoted a senior executive last year after he made sexually predatory comments during an industry presentation.
Tencent is a growing player in international gaming and entertainment. The company has a joint venture with Hollywood sports and entertainment powerhouse WME-IMG. It bought Supercell, maker of Clash of Clans, for $8.6 billion last year. And it also has equity stakes in mini-studio STX Entertainment (Bad Moms) and foreign sales and film finance outfit IM Global (Hacksaw Ridge).
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