Activists, UMN students show support for alleged Richard Liu victim

Attendees expressed support for the alleged victim, a University student, at a hearing Wednesday.

Demonstrators, two of which are from the group Free Chinese Feminists, stand outside the courtroom inside the Hennepin County Government Center on Wednesday, Sept. 11. The four were showing their support for Liu Jingyao on the first hearing of a civil case brought against Richard Liu.

Emma Dill

Demonstrators, two of which are from the group Free Chinese Feminists, stand outside the courtroom inside the Hennepin County Government Center on Wednesday, Sept. 11. The four were showing their support for Liu Jingyao on the first hearing of a civil case brought against Richard Liu.

Emma Dill

Members of a feminist group and University of Minnesota students showed support for a student and alleged rape victim of Chinese billionaire Richard Liu at a hearing Wednesday, Sept. 11. 

The hearing is the first motion in a civil lawsuit filed by University student Liu Jingyao against JD.com founder Richard Liu. Liu Jingyao was publicly identified as the alleged victim when she filed the suit against Richard Liu in April. Activists and students watched the court proceedings and took photos outside the courtroom with a sign that expressed support for Liu Jingyao and referenced the #MeToo movement.

Activist Xiaowen Liang flew to Minneapolis from New York City to attend the hearing. Liang, a recent law school graduate, is one of the editors for the Free Chinese Feminists Facebook page and organized the gathering.

Liang said showing up to the hearing allowed her to voice support for Liu Jingyao more directly.

“I felt like it’s very important to have actual, in-person support. I want to let people know that the support’s not only online,” Liang said. “There are actual people who will show up for this case who really believe in Jingyao.” 

Rose Liu, another activist, flew in from Washington D.C. to attend the hearing. 

Both Rose Liu and Liang said they wanted to change the images and narratives that surround media coverage of the lawsuit, which has centered around Richard Liu.

“To have his face be the image that’s representing this issue makes it seem like it’s one about individual misbehavior when really, for us, the issue is much bigger than that,” Rose Liu said. “It’s one that’s important for Chinese women and women more generally.”

The alleged incident occurred in August 2018 when Liu Jingyao was invited to a dinner with Richard Liu and other Chinese executives who were taking part in the University’s Doctor of Business Administration – China program. 

Liu Jingyao, who was volunteering with the program, was the only volunteer invited to the dinner, a “business networking event” meant to “honor” volunteers. The 21-year-old was the only female at the table of male executives, according to court documents. 

After dinner, Richard Liu allegedly raped Liu Jingyao in her Minneapolis apartment. 

Richard Liu was not criminally charged after the criminal investigation had concluded, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced in December, citing inadequate evidence.

In her civil suit, Liu Jingyao accused Richard Liu of assault and battery, false imprisonment and sexual assault. The filing also includes three liability charges against JD.com.

The victim’s attorney requests in excess of $50,000 in damages in the complaint.

During the Wednesday hearing, attorneys discussed how to serve notice of the civil charges to Richard Liu while he resides in China.

Rose Liu said it is important to recognize the unique struggles that Chinese women encounter both at home and abroad.

“We want to highlight that there are a lot of sexual harassment issues that Chinese women face,”  Rose Liu said. “Whether they’re in China or in the U.S.”

Clarification: this article has been updated to reflect the nature of who organized the protest. Xiaowen Liang is one of the editors for the Free Chinese Feminists Facebook page and organized the gathering.