Chinese tech tycoon Richard Liu of donates US$2 billion amid Beijing’s pursuit of ‘common prosperity’

  • Richard Liu Qiangdong announced during the Lunar New Year holiday that he was donating 62.4 million class B shares to a third-party foundation
  • Liu is one of several tech executives to make large charitable donations amid an ongoing campaign to rein in Big Tech and Beijing’s ‘common prosperity’ drive

Richard Liu Qiangdong, founder and chief executive of Chinese e-commerce juggernaut, is giving more than US$2.2 billion in stock to charity, making him the latest Chinese tech billionaire to donate an unprecedented sum amid Beijing’s efforts to rein in the power of Big Tech and boost “common prosperity”.

On Wednesday, the third day of China’s week-long Lunar New Year holiday, said in an filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it has been notified by its chairman Liu that “he will donate 62,376,643 Class B ordinary shares of the company to a third-party foundation for charitable purposes”.

The company did not elaborate on the details of the charity. Liu will remain as the single largest shareholder of following the donation.

Liu’s donation is just the latest from leading tech executives and companies answering a call from Chinese President Xi Jinping to improve common prosperity in a seeming response to concerns about wealth inequality. That drive also ramped up last year, when Beijing regulators heavily cracked down on the tech sector, levelling antitrust fines on the country’s biggest tech titans.

In the past 12 months, tech giants including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding – owner of the South China Morning Post – and Tencent Holdings, China’s largest video games and social media company, have each pledged billions of dollars to the common prosperity drive.

Many other Big Tech bosses – including Pinduoduo’s Colin Huang, ByteDance’s Zhang Yiming, Xiaomi’s Lei Jun and Meituan’s Wang Xing – have announced their own donations.

Liu, who founded in 2004, has a net worth of US$15.9 billion, according to the latest figures from the Forbes Real-Time Billionaire List on Wednesday.

Compared with other Big Tech companies, has faced relatively little impact from China’s crackdown. The company, with US$100 billion in annual revenue, has not been hit by regulators’ antitrust crusade – as Alibaba and Meituan have – or new rules on cybersecurity and data protections, like ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing.

Liu has been gradually stepping away from the limelight since August 2018, when he was briefly detained by police in the US following allegations that he raped a Chinese student at the University of Minnesota. The criminal charges were dropped after the prosecutors said that there was insufficient evidence.

Last September, named its first corporate president as Liu gets ready to step back from day-to-day operations. At the time, the company said in a statement that Liu would spend more time on long-term strategies and rural development.

Liu’s decision to step back is in line with his peers at other companies, who have also been retreating from the front lines. ByteDance’s Zhang and Pinduoduo’s Huang both left their roles as chairman last year. Zhang also stepped down as CEO, which Huang had done the previous year.

Author: Josh Ye, SCMP

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