Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng
Last year, ecommerce firm JD.com was rocked by a rape allegation against its CEO, Richard Liu (Liú Qiángdōng 刘强东). The accusation came from a Chinese student at the University of Minnesota, which Liu had visited on August 31 as part of an executive education program. Liu, one of the most famous tech billionaires in China, was detained for a day but then released, and prosecutors eventually declined to press charges.
The student, Liu Jingyao (no relation to Richard Liu), was relentlessly slut-shamed on the Chinese internet. Hashtags related to her case were among the most popular — and most censored — of 2018. She recently recounted her whole experience for the first time in English to the New York Times, and the story is worth reading to understand more about one of the most high-profile Chinese #MeToo cases, the Chinese internet, and misogyny in China today.
Despite having the full weight of Chinese patriarchy behind him, the #MeToo scandal put Liu’s leadership of JD.com into question — especially because he is both the CEO and the chairman of the company and controls 80 percent of its voting rights. Caixin reports that he has, at least on paper, stepped aside from some of his responsibilities as a result:
Liu has quietly stepped down from top jobs at multiple JD subsidiaries including the company’s logistics, cloud computing, and healthcare units in the past few weeks, changes in business registry records show.
The reality on the ground may be different. Public records show Liu still holds a 45 percent stake in a company registered in Xi’an that fully controls JD Logistics. He also indirectly controls the subsidiary which runs JD’s cloud computing unit.
In other words, Richard Liu has emerged more or less unscathed from a rape accusation. His accuser, meanwhile, rarely leaves her apartment, sleeps with pepper spray and a stun gun on her nightstand, and is showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Learn more: China’s #MeToo movement, explained.
China’s most recent #MeToo case involves an associate professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. Read more about it on SupChina.