Gui Qing Koh on Reuters report revealing the story of the night a Chinese billionaire was accused of rape in Minnesota
Earlier this week, a Reuters story provided the first details of the night Chinese billionaire Richard Liu was accused of rape in Minnesota. The story, by Reuters correspondents Gui Qing Koh and Lawrence Delevigne, sent shares of Liu’s company, JD.com, down 7 percent. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Gui Qing offers a look at the reporting behind the story.
Q. How did you get started on this story?
A. It started when Minneapolis police said it had arrested the CEO of JD.com for criminal sexual misconduct. It was intriguing because there were – and remain – many unanswered questions. How did a Chinese billionaire studying in Minneapolis for a week become accused of rape? Why was he arrested and released soon after?
Q. What types of reporting were involved?
A. It was shoe-leather reporting at the start in Minneapolis, visiting offices, schools and restaurants. But as people started to get to know me, I could cultivate a few sources. Lawrence Delevingne, my co-author, did an excellent job cultivating sources based on information we gathered even though he wasn’t in Minneapolis.
Q. What was the hardest part of the reporting?
A. It was hard getting people to talk about an on-going police investigation, especially if they want to protect the complainant or avoid legal liabilities. One man jumped into his car and drove off just to get away from me.
Q. Why was this an important story to tell our customers?
A. Our society is less tolerant of sexual misconduct since the #MeToo movement and impropriety can cost powerful people their jobs. For JD.com, China’s second-biggest ecommerce website, its CEO’s future is especially import to the company because he controls 80 percent of the board vote. JD.com’s shares are down a fifth since the rape allegations surfaced.
Q. What makes you passionate about journalism?
A. It’s satisfying to tell stories that are hard to get and which we would otherwise not know about.
Q. What is your beat and what do you find most fulfilling about it?
A. I write about Chinese investments in the United States, and it’s interesting given the ambitions of China Inc.
Q. What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a journalist?
A. I find it difficult to interview people who are in deep grief. I once spoke to a survivor of the 2004 Asian tsunami. He had lost his home and family, and he was sitting on the beach where his house once stood when I approached him. His trauma was so intense he could barely speak, and we sat in silence for much of the interview.
Q. Can you imagine being anything other than a journalist? If so, what?
A. I would love to be an architect, if I weren’t artistically challenged.