(This Oct. 2 story has been corrected to fix name of university in first paragraph to University of Minnesota, from University of Michigan)
By Casey Hall
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Billionaire Richard Liu, founder of one of China’s largest e-commerce platforms JD.com, has settled a civil suit brought by former University of Minnesota student Liu Jingyao, who had accused him of rape.
The suit was part of a long-running legal battle between Richard Liu and Liu Jingyao, who was a 21-year-old student in 2018 when she said Richard Liu raped her after an evening of dinner and drinks.
A statement from the lawsuit’s parties, and provided to Reuters by JD.com, said: “The incident between Ms. Jingyao Liu and Mr. Richard Liu in Minnesota in 2018 resulted in a misunderstanding that has consumed substantial public attention and brought profound suffering to the parties and their families.”
It went on to confirm that the case, which last week began jury selection proceedings in a Minnesota court, has been settled, but did not disclose the conditions of the settlement.
JD.com declined to comment further on the case, while lawyers for Richard Liu and Liu Jingyao did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Richard Liu is a high-profile billionaire in China who founded and until earlier this year was chief executive of JD.com. He handed the CEO reins to Xu Lei in April.
Liu Jingyao filed the civil suit in April 2019, four months after prosecutors declined to press criminal charges against Richard Liu.
The case heavily dented Liu’s reputation in China and put scrutiny on his control of the e-commerce giant. In 2019, he resigned from the advisory body to China’s parliament, citing “personal reasons”.
The case had also galvanised many women in China, where issues such as sexual harassment and assault had for years been rarely broached in public until the #MeToo movement took root in 2018, though it has faced online censorship and official pushback since.
Supporters of Liu Jingyao on Chinese social media called the settlement a win for China’s #MeToo movement.
News of the settlement quickly began trending on Chinese social media on Sunday, with more than 110 million people reading news on the topic.
(Reporting by Casey Hall and Winni Zhou; Editing by Kim Coghill)