What tech tycoon Richard Liu’s sexual misconduct case means for China’s #MeToo • TechCrunch

One of many highest-profile sexual assault allegations in opposition to Chinese language enterprise tycoons ended abruptly this previous weekend. Liu Qiangdong, the founding father of Chinese language ecommerce big JD.com, also referred to as Richard Liu, has reached a settlement with Liu Jingyao, a former College of Minnesota pupil who alleged that the billionaire raped her in her condo in 2018.

The announcement got here in a joint assertion from the 2 events on Saturday, simply two days earlier than Mr. Liu was scheduled to face a civil trial in Minneapolis, throughout which the press would have been allowed to dwell tweet from the courtroom. The quantity for the settlement wasn’t disclosed

The joint assertion neither denied nor confirmed Ms. Liu’s claims, saying solely that the incident between Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu (unrelated) “resulted in a misunderstanding that has consumed substantial public consideration and introduced profound struggling to the events and their households.”

“In the present day, the events agreed to put aside their variations, and settle their authorized dispute with a purpose to keep away from additional ache and struggling brought on by the lawsuit.”

Some would possibly see the outcome as one more occasion the place highly effective figures get to shun authorized ramifications utilizing their energy and cash. However others argue that is already a step ahead for China’s beleaguered #MeToo motion. Mr. Liu has beforehand denied the rape allegations and will have used his monetary prowess to defend his purported innocence by the trial. A settlement as a substitute would possibly recommend his silent admission of wrongdoings.

“It’s such a historic second for the previous four-year #Metoo motion in China, because the settlement stays important for the outcomes of wrestle by Jingyao and feminists,” reads a weblog put up by the Free Chinese language Feminist group. “The settlement additionally reconfirms the details which were denied by Liu Qiangdong and JD.com, and acknowledges that Liu Qiangdong saved hiding the reality.”

The case has drawn widespread consideration in China and lots of had been ready for the trial to uncover extra particulars of the case in opposition to one among China’s wealthiest males, a situation that will have been practically unimaginable in China the place sexual allegations have traditionally been silenced.

On-line discussions concerning the #MeToo case a minimum of appear to be allowed. On the microblogging platform Weibo, the hashtag for the settlement information has accrued over 40 million views. That’s maybe unsurprising provided that Chinese language censors are unlikely to facet with an ecommerce boss at a time Beijing is reining within the unfettered energy of the web sector.

Mr. Liu, whose blunt speeches and marriage to an web celeb was typically the subject of tabloid information, has largely retreated from public life for the reason that case surfaced. In April, the 49-year-old govt stepped down as JD’com’s CEO after founding the web retailer, which is hailed because the Amazon of China, some 24 years in the past. He stays the chairman of the agency’s board.

The four-year authorized entanglement didn’t appear to wane investor confidence in JD.com. The corporate’s inventory worth has practically doubled to $50 apiece from September 2018 when Mr. Liu first confronted the sexual misconduct allegations, although the shares are nonetheless down 50% from a excessive level in February 2021. With a market cap of round $77 billion, JD.com is the twentieth greatest firm in China on the time of writing.

JD.com hasn’t fared too badly amid China’s tech clampdown total. Many of the nation’s web giants have misplaced a considerable chunk of their market cap following a litany of rules over monopolies, knowledge practices, and extra. Alibaba’s inventory has shrunk 70% from a excessive in October 2020 and Tencent’s is down 66% from its peak in February 2021.

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