21-year-old Chinese student at the University of Minnesota told police and friends that she was raped by Richard Liu, the billionaire founder of JD.com, after he took her home following a night of drinking. While the woman was struggling with the decision to press charges or not, Liu was released from jail and soon flew back to China.
Using portions of her police interview, text messages with friends, and information from sources, Minnesota’s Star Tribune newspaper has managed to piece together an account of what the student says happened to her on the night of August 30th.
At that time, Richard Liu, CEO of China’s second-biggest e-commerce company, was in Minneapolis as part of a weeklong summer residency for an expensive business PhD program offered by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management to elite Chinese professionals.
According to the Star Tribune’s account of the night in question, Liu had organized a dinner at a pricey Japanese restaurant for more than a dozen of his male executive classmates. The alleged victim was invited as well, told that the dinner was being held in honor of the student volunteers who had helped the program’s members during their time in Minnesota.
However, on the day of the dinner, the student discovered that of the 10 volunteers, she was the only one that had actually been invited. Concerned, she then secured permission for a male friend and fellow volunteer to also attend the dinner with her. Also in attendance were three female assistants of the Chinese executives.
During the dinner, the student was seated beside Liu and said that she felt pressured to drink. Soon, she was intoxicated. Meanwhile, the student’s friend sat at another table with the assistants, one of whom took him away to buy more alcohol from a nearby liquor store, purchasing 32 bottles of wine for $3,600. Eventually, the friend was called away to accompany another Chinese executive to dinner elsewhere.
When the student left the restaurant to go home, she asked one of the assistants to call a car from a ride service for her. When a black SUV pulled up, she got inside, not realizing that it was Liu’s vehicle. Liu got in behind her.
The student was then dropped off outside of an unfamiliar mansion, but she refused to go inside and insisted on being taken back home. Once back inside the SUV, the student later told friends that Liu began making “physical advances” on her despite her protests.
When the car pulled up to the student’s apartment building at 11 pm that night, Liu followed her out of the SUV and into her home, telling the driver and assistant that he would be right back. However, once inside the apartment, the student told police that Liu began trying to pull off her sweater, skirt, and bra, holding her arms while trying to throw her on the bed as she told him “no.”
The student said that Liu responded to her protests by telling her that she could be the Wendi Deng to his Rupert Murdoch. “I’m a normal student. You have a family. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do this,” she told police she said in response.
“We were battling against each other on the bed and finally I escaped from him and went back to the living room and put the bra back on again,” she continued. “Finally, he just threw me onto the bed. He was on me. He was heavy. I tried to push him away. But he was on top of me… and then he raped me.”
At 2:05 am that night, the student texted her friends: “Liu Qiangdong is in my bed. He forcibly took me away last night and I couldn’t escape. I was slept by him,” using a Chinese idiom for being raped. “I didn’t do it willingly… I want to escape.”
When a friend told her to call the police, the student said not to, fearing that Liu would “exercise his power.” However, when she contacted the friend who had accompanied her to dinner that night, he rushed over to her apartment building and called the police from outside.
At about 3 am, police arrived at the student’s residence and took Liu away. However, the student said that she did not want to press charges and Liu was taken not to the police station, but to his penthouse suite at a historic hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
The following day, the student’s friends convinced her to go to the hospital for a sexual assault exam and to give a statement to police. Meanwhile, Liu arrived at school and was soon arrested on suspicion of rape and taken to jail where he spent the night before being released on Saturday afternoon without bail or travel restrictions. That evening, the student reached out to police again, declaring that she wanted to press charges on Liu. However, on Sunday, Liu took a plane back to China.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, JD.com insisted that the allegations made against its 44-year-old founder and CEO were completely fraudulent and discredited. However, Minneapolis police conducted an investigation into the accusations which concluded on September 21st. It is now up to the prosecutor’s office of Hennepin County to decide whether to pursue charges against Liu. At this time, no timeline has been set. Through legal representative, Liu has also denied all of the allegations.
Last month, Liu made his first public appearance with his wife following his arrest at the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie at Windsor Castle. Liu’s wife is 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 met while studying in New York and married in 2015. They have two children together.
At the same time that Liu was at the royal wedding, his friend, Xu Longwei, a Chinese property developer was being sentenced to four years in prison for rape in Australia, a crime that occurred in 2015 after a dinner party at Liu’s Sydney penthouse. 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 in regards to the case.