The Hennepin County Government Center, which houses Hennepin County District Court, pictured in 2021. Credit: Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

This story comes to you from MPR News through a partnership with Sahan Journal.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Thursday in downtown Minneapolis in a lawsuit filed by a former University of Minnesota student who alleges she was raped by Chinese billionaire Richard Liu. 

In 2019, Jingyao Liu sued Richard Liu and his company, alleging she was raped by him after a business dinner in August 2018 in Minneapolis. Jingyao Liu and Richard Liu, who goes by the name Liu Qiangdong in China, are not related. 

Richard Liu has a net worth of $11.5 billion, making him one of the top 200 richest people in the world, according to Forbes, and The Financial Times called him the “Jeff Bezos of China.” The allegations against him have been big news in China, where powerful men rarely face repercussions after allegations of sexual assault. 

In December 2018, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined to charge Richard Liu criminally. County Attorney Mike Freeman said it was unlikely they could prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

In August 2018, when she was a 21-year-old undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, Jingyao Liu said she was recruited as a “volunteer” for the University of Minnesota’s Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)–China program, a professional doctoral program offered by the school’s Carlson School of Management. The program is “tailored for top-level executives working full-time in China and the surrounding region,” according to the program’s website

Jingyao Liu was recruited to volunteer with the program by an associate dean at the school, according to the court filing. She says she was told she’d been chosen because of her family’s business success, and that volunteering would give her the chance to interact and network with top executives, according to the complaint.

One of the executives in the program invited her to a dinner he said would “honor” the volunteers, according to the complaint, but she says shortly after she accepted the invitation, she learned none of the other volunteers were invited. 

She said she was uncomfortable that she would be the only volunteer in attendance, but didn’t want to decline the invite and risk insulting the executive who invited her.

At the dinner at Origami in south Minneapolis, Jingyao Liu alleges she was seated next to Richard Liu, a student in the DBA–China program, according to the complaint. The filing states during the dinner, Richard Liu allegedly coerced her into drinking large amounts of alcohol. 

She said she was directed into a private limousine after the dinner, during which she alleges Richard Liu groped her and tried to remove her clothing. 

After a confrontation between the two during which she said she “pleaded” to go home, the limousine driver brought her to her apartment in downtown Minneapolis, according to the complaint. 

She alleges that Richard Liu entered her apartment, removed his clothes and raped her. After the alleged assault, Jingyao Liu told a friend–a fellow volunteer–but did not contact law enforcement out of fear, according to the complaint. 

However, the friend did call 911, and police responding to a “rape in progress” removed Richard Liu from her apartment early the next morning and later arrested him.   

Jingyao Liu is asking the court for a punitive judgment against Richard Liu. A jury could also find liable for compensatory damages against Jingyao Liu. 

Richard Liu and his attorneys have denied the allegations against him, and argued that Jingyao Liu “weaponized false allegations of rape in an attempt to extract a cash settlement.” Richard Liu told Minneapolis investigators after his arrest that sexual contact between the two had been “consensual” and “spontaneous.” 

Opening statements in the case are scheduled for 9 a.m. in Hennepin County District Court on Oct. 3.