China's ICBC Unit Sets Guidelines to Prevent Office Sexual Harassment

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BEIJING – A department of China’s largest bank has issued guidelines to its staff on how to interact with co-workers of the opposite gender, a rare move for a firm in China where sexual harassment was not recognized as a legal offense until a year ago.

The memo sent out by a unit of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China suggested avoiding physical contact or one-on-one interactions with colleagues of the opposite gender in enclosed spaces and refraining from sending flirtatious emojis in online communications.

The topic of sexual harassment and assault was for years rarely broached in public in China until a #MeToo movement took off in the country in 2018.

Although the movement faced censorship and a public pushback, China’s Parliament enacted legislation in June that held schools, businesses and other organizations responsible for preventing and dealing with sexual harassment for the first time.


“We should deeply learn lessons from previous events,” said the memo issued by ICBC’s Youth League branch of the Innovation Research and Development Center, which employs less than a hundred employees. It did not describe the events referred to.

“We’d like to encourage everyone to take the suggestions to ensure personal career development and happiness of the family.”

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The memo contained cartoons illustrating what dealings were considered appropriate and what were alarming. For example, it gave a “green light” in a cartoon of a man discussing fund investments with a female colleague but a “red light” when a woman took the front seat when accepting a ride in a car driven by a male co-worker.

ICBC declined to comment. At the end of June, ICBC employed more than 430,000 employees globally.

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