Chinese billionaire settles rape case


Chinese billionaire and founder of e-commerce giant Richard Liu Qiangdong has settled a lawsuit with a woman who accused him of raping her while she was in college – with both sides calling the 2018 incident a “misunderstanding.”

The settlement was announced by lawyers from both sides late Saturday, putting an end to the legal battle that summoned widespread attention across China.

The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, the New York Post reports.

Mr Liu was accused of raping the University of Minnesota undergrad after a night of dinner and drinks with a group of wealthy Chinese executives.

Criminal charges were never filed by prosecutors after he was originally arrested by authorities. Liu denied raping the accuser, Jingyao Liu.

The settlement was reached two days before the civil trial in Minneapolis was expected to begin.

“The incident between Ms Jingyao Liu and Mr Richard Liu in Minnesota in 2018 resulted in a misunderstanding that has consumed substantial public attention and brought profound suffering to the parties and their families,” the joint statement said.

“Today, the parties agreed to set aside their differences, and settle their legal dispute in order to avoid further pain and suffering caused by the lawsuit.”

Mr Liu stepped down as CEO of earlier this year following heightened scrutiny of China’s tech industry.

In a separate statement from Mr Liu, he apologised and thanked his wife, Zhang Zetian, who is prominent on Chinese social media, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“I want to once again express my regrets to all those troubled by this incident, especially my wife, and I hope my life and work can return to normal as soon as possible,” Mr Liu said, the Global Times reported.

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“Without her, I would not be able to survive to this day,” Mr Liu wrote, according to the Journal. “I wish everyone a better tomorrow!”

Mr Liu is worth about $17 billion (US$10.9 billion), according to Forbes and is credited as one of a generation of entrepreneurs who created the country’s internet, e-commerce and mobile phone industries.

Mr Liu was released a day after he was arrested on suspicion of rape in August 2018 after prosecutors said the case had “profound evidentiary problems.”

Jingyao Liu then sued Richard Liu and his company in 2019 at a time when the #MeToo movement was gaining traction in China.

She alleged the attack occurred while Mr Liu, who is in his 40s, was in town for a week as part of a residency with the university’s business school program aimed at high-level executives from China.

Jingyao Liu, a volunteer with the program, was invited out with the top executives to a Japanese restaurant at the behest of Richard Liu and was pressured to drink as Richard Liu told her she would dishonour him if she didn’t join in the fun, the lawsuit claimed.

Jingyao Liu, a Chinese citizen, was 21 at the time of the alleged incident and at the university on a student visa.

The two are not related.

After the dinner she claimed she was pulled into Richard Liu’s limousine and groped against her wishes before she was raped inside her apartment, according to text messages seen by the Associated Press and Jingyao Liu’s interviews with police.

At one point she texted a friend “I begged him don’t. But he didn’t listen” which led the friend to call the police.

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When authorities arrived, she told one officer, “I was raped but not that kind of rape,” according to police and then changed the subject, claiming Richard Liu was famous and she was afraid.

Jingyao Liu also urged police to not get involved, saying the sex was “spontaneous.”

Richard Liu told police he believed the sex was consensual and the young woman “enjoyed the whole process very much.”

On a phone call later with Richard Liu’s ex-lawyer, the accuser said she didn’t want the incident publicised, adding, “I just need payment money and apologise and that’s all,” according to a recording of the phone call.

Jingyao Liu’s legal team argued she withdrew from classes in fall 2018 and required counselling and treatment following the incident.

She demanded unspecified damages of more than $50,000, which is a standard figure that must be listed in Minnesota.

With wires

This story was published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission.



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