As many as 1,000 protesters, comprising small business owners on the B2C e-commerce platform Taobao Mall, have gathered at Alibaba HQ in Hangzhou, eastern China, today. More are expected to arrive later this afternoon, and up to 2,000 are thought to be converging there from all over China. Photos show a handful of police watching over, but the formal alliance of aggrieved business owners seem to be mostly just standing around, holding banners, and listening to occasional speeches by its representatives.
This demonstration was expected after being planned a few days in advance, and relates to rule changes on Taobao Mall – aka Tmall.com – that smaller vendors say makes their lives harder – such as higher security deposits, and a tougher evaluation measure for vendors. Alibaba has already stated that the new policies cannot be undone, and have been put in place to protect consumers and make its B2C marketplace more professional. Alibaba’s Tmall is made up of thousands of storefronts, for both large brands – such as Uniqlo (TYO:9983) and Adidas (ETR:ADS) – and small businesses alike.
Some protestors (more are pictured below) are wearing stickers emblazoned with the Chinese character ‘ren’ which means ‘endure.’
The alliance of protestors had earlier called for a face-to-face discussion with CEO and founder Jack Ma, but it’s not clear if that might happen. Yesterday, Alibaba said it’s “willing to listen to any constructive feedback and suggestions,” but made no further comment today.
Although the stand-off looks peaceful, it’s an awkward situation for Alibaba, as the B2C e-commerce sector in China gets more fierce by the month. Just the other day, its closest rival, 360Buy, made a significant move into selling luxury fashion items with its new 360Top online mall.
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