Richard Liu, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, has received widespread attention throughout China following his Sept. 1 arrest for rape in the state of Minnesota.
In an unusual move, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has commented on Liu’s case. Liu, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, is notably also a member of a Chinese regime-sponsored political organization that advocates the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology.
Liu was present in the United States to attend a Ph.D. course in Business Administration at the University of Minnesota. In the evening of Aug. 31, Liu went to a private dinner at an Italian restaurant.
The alleged victim, who was sitting beside Liu and was the only woman among the ten people at the table, is reported to be a Chinese student and model attending the university.
After the diners consumed 32 bottles of wine, the victim called the police to report that she had been raped and Liu was arrested early the next day.
John Elder, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department, said that the investigation was “really in its infancy.” Despite this, Liu was released in the afternoon without having to post bail after spending 16 hours in detention. He denies the charge, a claim backed by his company. Liu returned to China on Sept. 3.
Liu’s scandal has impacted the stock of JD.com. On Nasdaq, its share price closed at $29.42, a decrease of 6.01 percent from $31.30 on Sept. 4.
Liu’s Political Pedigree
Richard Liu, 45, is one of a few prominent Chinese tech entrepreneurs who has won many fans with his achievements.
But Liu’s public activities go beyond conventional business. He is a member of the China Democratic National Construction Association, an organization that promotes the Chinese Communist Party’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Liu has a seat in the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and has given talks about communism.
In January 2017, China Business Network published an interview with Liu from November 2016. Liu said that “before, many people felt that communism is out of reach. But I discovered suddenly that communism can be achieved in our generation after witnessing all technical arrangements in the past two to three years.”
“Robots can take all our jobs and generate massive wealth,” Liu told China Business Network. “Then the government can allocate it to the people. There won’t be poor or rich. All companies will belong to the state … nobody will need to work for material needs; instead, they will work for spiritual or emotional satisfaction.”
On June 2, 2018, the official Weibo social media account of the city of Yan’an—the base of the Chinese Communist Party prior to its takeover of the country in 1949—published a set of photos of Ma Huateng and Richard Liu donning Red Army uniforms during a visit to this “holy city” of the CCP to show their loyalty to the Party.
Ma Huateng is the founder and chairman of Tencent, the developer of QQ and WeChat. Though the 2018 Hurun Report named him the wealthiest man in Asia, Ma is in a bind. Tencent is facing a business decline following criticism by several official media outlets accusing it of addicting youth to online games. Its stock price in the Hong Kong market has decreased almost 30 percent since last January.
But the Chinese regime may be affording Liu preferential treatment.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a Sept. 3 press briefing that the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago was keeping an eye on the case, and was in contact with the relevant U.S. organizations for updates on the situation. It is rare for Beijing to take public interest in the fate of a Chinese businessman overseas.
Moreover, news about Liu’s arrest is censored in China. While Liu’s mugshot spread quickly across social media, all state-owned media removed their reports on his case.
Liu’s reputation had already taken a dip earlier this July. The Sydney Morning Herald quoted an Australian court document as saying that Liu had tried to force the court to avoid releasing his name in connection with a trial in a 2015 rape case, but the judge refused his request.
In the 2015 case, Liu had held a party in his Sydney luxury penthouse on Dec. 26, 2015. One of the accusations was that he had forced a 20-year-old model to drink with other men. Tommy Xu, one of the guests at the party, took the woman to his Shangri-La hotel room where he sexually assaulted her.