Journalists' assets frozen in defamation lawsuit
By Chen Hong in Shenzhen and Wang Shanshan in Beijing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-29 06:56

A leading Chinese financial newspaper has said that it is fully behind two of its journalists who have been sued for 30 million yuan (US$3.75 million) a sum which would take an average reporter about 600 years to earn in a defamation case filed by an iPod manufacturer in Shenzhen.

All assets of the duo have been frozen by the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court pending a hearing of the suit filed by Hongfujin Precision Industry Co, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Foxconn Technology Group which does original equipment manufacturing for Apple Inc.

Shanghai-based China Business News said on Sunday that the entire national press would "condemn" the "organized challenge" to individual reporters; and warned the company to withdraw the case or face legal action.

Yesterday a spokesperson for Foxconn told China Daily that there were no new developments in the case and it would not comment further.

Here's how the events unfolded:

On June 15, China Business News published a story by Wang You "Foxconn workers: The machine punishes you to stand 12 hours," describing the alleged harsh working conditions and low pay in the Taiwan-funded company.

Within a week, Foxconn held a press conference denying the allegations and invited journalists to check for themselves the actual working and living conditions in the company.

On June 30, two of the company's representatives are reported to have complained to Wang and Weng Bao, the former's supervisor, that the stories cast a negative light on Foxconn; and asked them to cease writing such reports.

On July 4, the company filed a suit in the Shenzhen court, claiming the reports were contrary to fact, misleading, damaged the image of the company and caused great losses. The suit demanded Wang pay 20 million yuan (US$2.5 million) in compensation and Weng, 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million).

On July 10, the court ordered the assets of the two journalists including real estate, automobiles, and banking deposits be frozen. No date has been set for a hearing.

On August 17, Apple announced what it called were the results of a 10-week investigation of Foxconn and mostly exonerated the company of the charges made in the media.

Weng told China Daily yesterday that the newspaper made the public statement in support of its staff after "repeated attempts" to seek negotiation with the company were spurned.

Yang Baiguo, the newspaper's spokesman, told China Daily that neither of the journalists had received any subpoenas or summons from the court.

Xu Xun, legal consultant of China National Radio said the Chinese Supreme Court made a ruling in 1993 stating that individual reporters cannot be named as defendants in such lawsuits, and only their news organizations can.

"The two reporters should have had little to worry about, but they do have big headaches now," said Xu.

Zhao Chenyu, Party secretary of the All-China Journalists' Association, told China Daily that her association would get involved if the two journalists or their newspaper approached the organization.

Cao Li in Shanghai and Wang Zhuoqiong in Beijing contributed to the story

(China Daily 08/29/2006 page1)


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