University of Minnesota Student Sues JD.com’s CEO Richard Liu for Alleged Rape
Jingyao Liu, an undergraduate student at University of Minnesota, filed a civil lawsuit against Richard Liu and his company JD.com Inc. The lawsuit accused Richard Liu and JD.com of a total of six counts of false imprisonment, civil assault and battery, as well as sexual assault or battery.
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Richard Liu, founder and CEO of JD.com Inc, was not only known for his wealth, which is 12.7 billion USD in net worth, but also for his marriage with Chinese internet celebrity Zhang Zetian.
Jingyao Liu was a 21-year-old student when she first accused Richard Liu of rape. Though the Associated Press does not generally name alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent, her attorney said the client had agreed to be named.
“We are proud of the incredible courage our client has shown revealing her name for all the world to see, so that justice may be done,” said Florin Roebig, one of the law firms representing Liu Jingyao. According to the court filing, the lawsuit seeks compensation of more than $50,000. However, Florin Roebig declined to comment on the exact amount they were seeking.
Jingyao Liu is a Chinese citizen studying at the university on a student visa. She was a volunteer for the university’s doctor of business administration China program, a four-year program geared toward high-level executives in China. In August 2018, Richard Liu was one of the executives visiting Minneapolis for a week as part of the program.
On August 30 2018, Jingyao Liu was invited to a formal dinner by Charlie Yao, another executive. The event was pitched to honor volunteers, but no others were invited. As it was said in the lawsuit, Richard Liu had privately asked Yao to invite the Jingyao Liu. At the event, Jingyao Liu felt coerced to drink, as Richard Liu toasted her, saying it was a dishonor to him if she did not drink.
After the event, Richard Liu pulled her into a limousine and made advances despite her protests, per the lawsuit. According to the text messages reviewed by the Associated Press and her interviews with police, she texted a friend at that time, saying:”I begged him to stop. But he didn’t listen.”
As said in the court document, “Defendant Liu was physically larger in size and significantly stronger than the plaintiff and used his superior size and strength to subdue and rape her. ”
Jingyao Liu called the police the following morning, which led to Richard Liu’s arrest on Aug. 31, but he was soon released without charge 17 hours later. As he went back to China and continued his executive role, prosecutors of Hennepin County, Minnesota investigated the rape allegation to determine if criminal charges were warranted.
As news broke about Liu’s arrest, JD.com Inc. (NASDAQ:JD) stocks fell sharply and hit two-year lows from 31.30 USD per share in August to less than 20 USD per share in November, decreasing more than 15 billion USD in total.
In December 2018, prosecutors of Hennepin County court decided not to press criminal charges against Richard Liu, as there were “profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” It was at that time that JD.com‘s stock price started to gradually pick up, till 30 USD this month.
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Recently, Richard Liu was active in the public debate on Chinese social media. In respect to the 996.ICU, he said “Those who fool around all day long are not my brothers! I am responsible for the 180,000 families behind the 180,000 brothers,” emphasizing the importance of a competitive spirit rather than employees’ welfare. Chinese netizens criticized him for being ruthless and ignorant of his employees’ well-being. With the news coming out, it seems people’s negative judgement of Richard Liu has become even more intensified.
It will be interesting to see how the stock market will react after the latest civil lawsuit against Richard Liu and JD.com Inc. According to the court file, one reason to include JD.com in the lawsuit is the company and employees’ vicarious liability. It is said that Richard Liu’s advancements towards Jingyao Liu began in the presence of two other JD.com employees, Vivian Yang Han and Alice Zhang Yujia.
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