High profile #MeToo case in China settled out of court in US | China

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One of China’s largest and most controversial #MeToo cases, which was expected to unfold with extraordinary transparency due to its location in the United States and was closely watched by millions in China, has been settled at the amicable.

Liu Qiangdong, a 49-year-old online retail billionaire, also known as Richard Liu and known as Jeff Bezos in China, had been accused of sexually assaulting a then 21-year-old Chinese graduate while studying at the University of Minnesota. and he was on a business trip. Liu has always denied the assault charges, saying they were consensual.

In 2019, Liu Jingyao – who is unrelated but shares a common name – filed civil proceedings against Liu, after prosecutors declined to pursue a criminal case. The case was followed by Chinese. But on the eve of the Minneapolis trial, attorneys for both sides announced they had reached a settlement. A settlement amount was not disclosed.

“The incident between Ms. Liu Jingyao and Mr. Liu Richard in Minnesota in 2018 resulted in a misunderstanding that drew public attention and caused deep suffering to the parties and their families,” he said.

The shock announcement put an end to a case that had captured the attention of Chinese citizens and media, helped by the much more open access of the US court system than China’s notoriously opaque court system.

In 2018, Liu Jingyao claimed that she was at a dinner party with Liu, the CEO of online retail giant JD.com, and other executives, and was coerced into drinking alcohol. ‘alcohol. She accused Liu of later forcing her into a car when she was too drunk to resist, then following her to her bedroom and raping her. The next day she called the police, who arrested Liu.

The case made global headlines, but Liu denied any wrongdoing and was released the following day. Prosecutors later declined to press charges citing “profound evidentiary issues.” In April of the following year, Liu Jingyao filed a civil lawsuit against him.

The charges and the ongoing civil suit, which was due to begin on Monday, had divided opinion over the years. China’s #MeToo movement has struggled to gain traction due to social stigma, official censorship, unequal power dynamics and significant barriers preventing victims from taking their cases to court. In recent years, unsuccessful charges against prominent men have appeared to undermine faith in government promises to improve protections for women.

Liu and his wife, an influential celebrity, were famous and won support over the allegations. Chinese media seized edited CCTV footage of the couple’s meeting, to discredit Liu Jingyao’s account and suggest she had invited the executive to her room. She faced widespread accusations of seducing Liu and lying to make money. There has also been debate about the societal favors of powerful elites, dangerous drinking cultures, and the demands of a “perfect victim”.

News of the settlement quickly spread across social media in China, with hundreds of millions of views of related hashtags on Weibo.

“The public saw the gist of the case,” said one. “Money is almighty.”

Some #MeToo supporters praised Liu Jingyao for continuing his fight for four years. “Every battle flag is precious,” said one.

A group of Chinese women’s rights activists who had been following the case, sharing information with people in China, said the settlement was of great significance to the movement and was a “common victory”.

“Jingyao decided that this case had a lot more details to reveal through the [legal] process and she was ready to take it to court,” said Gigi, a US-based member of the group.

“It’s because of his courage that we get to know a lot more details and do more public education and let people know more about one of the most high-profile #MeToo cases in China. . [and] to have the ability to maybe get a trial, where you can have huge open access to court documents on the website, which reveals so much how these typical alcohol and toxic business cultures.

“With so many #MeToo survivors coming forward, we can humanize the cases, we see them, and they don’t have to be the perfect victim. We’ve come a long way.”

Liu Jingyao, who previously told The New York Times that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the alleged incident, told the newspaper on Sunday that she was “OK.” “I didn’t make it to the end, but that was all I could do,” the NYT said.

On Sunday, Liu issued a statement. “I want to once again express my regrets to everyone troubled by this incident, especially my wife, and hope that my life and work can return to normal as soon as possible,” he said. .

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