A rape case involving JD.com’s Liu Qiangdong, or Richard Liu, is not over yet.
Last Friday, a Minnesota court held a four-hour hearing in which Liu Jingyao, the accuser, asked for punitive damages from both Richard Liu and Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com. She attended the hearing in person.
In late August 2018, 21-year-old Ms. Liu, an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, accused Mr. Liu of following her back to her apartment and raping her after a dinner party.
She studied at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and volunteered in a program for visiting international executives. Mr. Liu was one of them. That night, after leaving the party, Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu drove to a house rented by one of the executives, but Ms. Liu refused to go in. They later went to Ms. Liu’s apartment.
Ms. Liu contacted a friend following the incident and the police were called. Mr. Liu was later arrested by Minneapolis police, but released within hours. In December 2018, the county attorney’s office declined to charge him, stating that “it had not found enough evidence.”
In April 2019, Ms. Liu brought the case to a Minnesota civil court, accusing Mr. Liu of sexual assault and battery, and seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
In the latest hearing, plaintiff Ms. Liu asked to add punitive damages to her claim. Under Minnesota law, punitive damages shall be allowed in civil actions only upon clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the defendant show deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others, and punitive damages can only be filed separately after the discovery phase of the case.
She and her lawyers presented new evidence to prove that Mr. Liu had nonconsensual sex with her, including testimonies from a waitress at the Japanese restaurant where the dinner party took place and Mr. Liu’s limousine driver.
Another motion heard was JD.com’s proposal to be dismissed from the case – the corporation maintained that it should not be reliable for Mr. Liu’s personal actions.
A jury trial has been set for September 26 or October 3.
After the hearing, an edited video was posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, with the hashtag reading “the woman involved in Liu Qiangdong’s rape case said she had sex with him spontaneously.”
Posted by a local Shandong media outlet, the video shows surveillance videos of Ms. Liu’s apartment and the policeman’s body-worn cam, without blurring her face. The video has gathered 33.2 million views and 11,700 comments. Some mentioned Mr. Liu’s wife, Zhang Zetian, and some called the scandal a “gold digger trap.”
However, according to Ms. Liu’s supporters, the video was deliberately cut to give the above impression. The fact is that before Ms. Liu said “I had sex with him spontaneously,” she told the police “Yes, I was raped, but it’s not like that” and stated concerns for her own safety and about what might happen to her in the future in China.
After the alleged rape case happened in 2018, Mr. Liu, the billionaire founder of JD.com, barely showed up in the public. In April, company veteran Xu Lei took over Mr. Liu’s CEO position while Mr. Liu remained as the chairman of the company’s board.
In recent years, as Beijing has strengthened its scrutiny of the domestic technology sector, a batch of high-profile Chinese tech industry figures stepped down from leadership roles at their companies, including ByteDance’s Zhang Yiming, Pinduoduo’s Colin Huang, and Kuaishou’s Su Hua.
Mr. Liu recently surfaced again on the Chinese internet because he has cashed out nearly $1 billion from JD.com since stepping down in April.
According to public filings from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mr. Liu sold about 8.8 million shares in JD Health between late April and early May, and sold about 15.1 million shares of JD.com. These moves prompted speculation over what he may do.
Meanwhile, news has spread throughout the Chinese internet that a 33-year-old Chinese woman named Nani Wang splashed 80 million euros ($84.22 million) in cash for a 49-room property on the Italian island of Sardinia, according to the island’s local newspaper, L’unione Sarda. The buyer has the same name as a former board director of JD Health International, the healthcare arm of JD.com, and an unconfirmed rumor suggests that she is one of Mr. Liu’s relatives.