spending Friday night in the slammer on suspicion of sexual misconduct, the billionaire founder of one of China’s biggest internet companies is now back in China.fter
At 11:32 pm on August 31st, Liu Qiangdong (Richard Liu), the 44-year-old founder and CEO of e-commerce giant JD.com, Alibaba’s main rival, was brought into a police station in Minneapolis after being accused of “criminal sexual conduct.” He was released the following afternoon.
Liu’s arrest has quickly become the hottest topic of conversation on Chinese social media with his mugshot plastered on all corners and with netizens gossiping over what this means for the tycoon’s high-profile marriage to Zhang Zetian, a 24-year-old internet icon dubbed China’s “Milk Tea Sister” after having first caught the nation’s eye in a viral photo showing her with a cup of milk tea in hand. The two have been married since 2015 and have a daughter together.
Over the weekend, JD.com released a statement about Liu’s arrest on its official Weibo page, claiming that police had quickly determined that there was “no substance” to the accusations made against Liu. However, despite the company’s claims, the Minneapolis police department has said that there is currently an active investigation into the accusations, though Liu was allowed to go free without bail or travel restrictions.
Three days following his shocking arrest, Liu is now back in China. It’s not clear when exactly he arrived or if the brief incarceration changed his travel plans. A company spokeswoman said that Liu returned to China to work.
Liu, who has an estimated net worth of around $7.33 billion, was apparently in Minneapolis because he is enrolled as a student at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in its Doctor of Business Administration China program. As part of their residency, participants in the program were in town from August 26th to September 1st.
According to online rumors, the sexual misconduct allegations against Liu were made by a female Chinese student at the university. The alleged student’s name and photos have been circulating on Weibo with many a nasty comment made unfavorably comparing the woman’s appearance to that of Zhang Zetian.
Following his marriage to Zhang, Liu had infamously claimed to be “face-blind” when dismissing speculation that he had only wed the internet star, 20 years his junior, for her good looks, a self-diagnosis that Chinese net users couldn’t help but bring back up. “Maybe he mistook the other woman as Sister Milk Tea. He is face blind, after all,” the New York Times quotes one as writing.
Liu’s arrest comes as the billionaire is still trying to distance himself from the sexual assault conviction of one of his party-goers at a gathering he hosted in his luxury Sydney penthouse in 2015. Liu was not charged or accused of any misconduct, however, he did end up losing a legal battle to keep his name out of the court records and the papers.