Police in the United States have released new information concerning the alleged rape of a University of Minnesota student by a Chinese business tycoon, casting a fresh light on an ongoing civil suit that has attracted international attention.
A newly released case report from the Minneapolis Police Department includes 911 call transcripts, police reports, photos, and videos, as well as officers’ interviews with the plaintiff, the defendant, two of the defendant’s assistants, and the limousine driver on the evening of the alleged rape.
During police questioning, the student, Liu Jingyao, described the events of the evening, beginning with a “business networking dinner.” She said she “begged” Richard Liu — the billionaire CEO of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com — to have her driven back to her apartment after “he started to kiss me and pull off my clothes.” She said she had felt “scared.” The student said the businessman followed her to her apartment and raped her.
One of Richard Liu’s assistants who had accompanied the pair in the limousine told police that although she saw the two kissing in the back seat of the car, she didn’t notice any displeasure from Liu Jingyao, who she said had not asked for help. Liu Jingyao told police that the assistant said she couldn’t do anything when she had asked her in the women’s bathroom for help leaving the dinner.
The limousine driver said he heard “kisses and moaning” but no cries for help, and said he couldn’t tell if the act was consensual, according to the 147-page dossier — which also said the student had threatened to take Richard Liu to court unless she received financial compensation and an apology.
In April, an audio file less than two minutes long surfaced online. A woman believed to be Liu Jingyao, is heard threatening to take the case to court. But a public account on social app WeChat later released a “full-length” version of the conversation between Liu Jingyao and Jill Brisbois — the lawyer who represents Richard Liu — and claimed that the audio file leaked earlier that week had been “manipulated.”
The details contained within the case file are consistent with the full-length audio file, which had been released with the student’s permission.
In April, the then-21-year-old student filed a civil lawsuit at Minnesota’s Hennepin County court against Richard Liu and his company. The suit claimed that Richard Liu — who is not related to the plaintiff — coerced the woman into consuming alcohol during a dinner and later “physically forced himself” on her in a limousine.
Minnesota police arrested Richard Liu in August of last year over the student’s rape claim but released him a day later. Last December, the Hennepin County attorney’s office decided not to press charges, citing “profound evidentiary problems.”
According to police records from the evening included in Wednesday’s dossier, Liu Jingyao initially told the officers that the sex was “consensual” and “spontaneous.” But according to text messages Liu Jingyao sent to her boyfriend the same night, she had expressed fears over Richard Liu’s power. “I just want to escape … So I beg you not to call the police … I’m still studying at the university,” read some of the messages included in the case report. She eventually went to the police herself.
Richard Liu has denied the rape allegation, telling officers that the sex was “consensual,” according to the police report.
The audio and video information that have been leaked online via official and sometimes unidentified sources have further raised questions and confusion in China, shifting the balance in a public opinion tug-of-war. In one leaked surveillance video from the night of the alleged incident, Liu Jingyao and Richard Liu are seen walking arm-in-arm to her apartment. The scene caused some to express doubts about her account, others to vilify her for supposedly trying to tarnish Richard Liu’s reputation.
However, in an interview with financial news outlet Caixin in April, Liu Jingyao stood by her account of the dinner and the alleged rape. She said she had held onto Richard Liu’s arm because she felt dizzy after drinking, and because she did not want to irritate him. Many people — including a few high-profile figures — have rallied behind Liu Jingyao, campaigning for justice on social media using the hashtag #HereForJingyao#.
Neither Liu Jingyao’s lawyer nor JD.com had replied to Sixth Tone’s inquiries about Wednesday’s case report by time of publication. Brisbois, Richard Liu’s attorney, told The Associated Press Thursday that the evidence reaffirms their belief in their client’s innocence.
Contributions: Wang Yiwei; editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Richard Liu, the CEO of Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com, attends a press conference in Beijing, March 10, 2018. IC)