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2019-04-23 05:03:58

Zhao Hejuan, one of China’s most influential business journalists, has declared her support for Liu Jingyao, the Chinese student who is suing JD.com CEO Richard Liu over an alleged rape.

In an article published Monday, the founder of the popular business and technology news outlet TMTPost demanded that the Chinese billionaire apologize personally to the University of Minnesota student and publicly on behalf of JD.com, one of China’s largest e-commerce platforms.

“Sexual assault is a very serious act, and it’s worse when the men involved are far superior to the women in terms of power, social status, and wealth,” Zhao wrote in TMTPost.

Liu Jingyao filed a civil lawsuit last Tuesday against Richard Liu and his company at a Minnesota district court. The suit claims that the business tycoon coerced her into consuming alcohol during a “business networking dinner” and later “began to grope and physically force himself upon the plaintiff” inside a limousine multiple times before they arrived at her apartment. The suit also alleges that Richard Liu “used his superior size and strength to subdue and rape” the student.

Richard Liu’s lawyer told The New York Times the same day, however, that the claim “is without merit and (we) will vigorously defend against it.”

On Monday, two separate surveillance videos from the night of the incident were circulated on social media, with some online using the scenes depicted to dispute Liu Jingyao’s claims. In one video, Liu Jingyao and Richard Liu are seen sitting separately at a dinner table; in the other, the two are walking arm-in-arm to the student’s apartment.

Lawyers representing Richard Liu in China confirmed the footage as authentic. Liu Jingyao’s legal representatives had not responded to Sixth Tone’s request for comment by time of publication but told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the videos were consistent with their client’s claims.

Since Minnesota’s Hennepin County court made the lawsuit public on Thursday, supporters have rallied behind the student using the hashtag “HereForJingyao” — though others have vilified her on social media, accusing her of trying to destroy Richard Liu’s reputation.

Contributions: Hoi Ying Lo; editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: JD.com CEO Richard Liu attends the JD Discovery Conference in Beijing, Nov. 6, 2017. IC)