BEIJING - Fang Zhouzi, the high-profile writer who is known as the "science cop" because of his battles against pseudo-science and academic fraud, found his own family at the receiving end of such allegations after a newspaper had published an article accusing his wife of plagiarizing other's work in the thesis she submitted for her master's degree in 2002.
The newspaper article bore the headline "Fang Zhouzi's own family found to be dishonest - Wife copied others' work in her MA thesis" and was published by Legal Weekly. The story said Liu Juhua, Fang's wife, cited the work of others in 146 paragraphs of her 159-paragraph thesis but only annotated 70 of those paragraphs with details of whose work she had used.
The article said Yi Ming, a Chinese scholar who now lives in the United States, made the discovery about the thesis along with other scholars.
The newspaper carried images of many paragraphs of the thesis, detailing how annotations should have been included.
Fang said on Thursday that Guo Guosong, the editor-in-chief of Legal Weekly, published the article to get revenge because Fang had once exposed the fact that a news story that Guo had written was fabricated.
Fang wrote on his micro blog: "Guo said in interviews that the article about my wife was in the public interest but in his micro blog he added that the story reveals Fang Zhouzi's lapse."
Fang said he and his wife filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Beijing-based newspaper Legal Daily, the parent company of Legal Weekly.
He said he does not believe his wife cheated in her thesis but noted she had simply cited some pieces of information as facts, claiming that "unstandardized use of annotations is very common among Chinese academic circles".
"It was worse 10 years ago. There was no strict standard for an academic thesis in China," Fang said. "If you use international standards to check Chinese students' MA theses, even nowadays, you may find a trace of plagiarism in almost every thesis," Fang said in his micro blog.
"Besides, she was not my wife 10 years ago. Isn't it obvious what Guo wants by connecting her thesis with me?"
However, Guo responded by saying he did not decide to publish the article for personal reasons but because it was "an objective news story".
Guo urged Fang and his wife to admit that she had cheated.
"How ridiculous this so-called science cop is," he said. "He is so willing to report others' cheating but when it comes to his wife, he refuses to admit it."
Fang's wife, Liu Juhua, who is a journalist, has not responded directly to the media but published a blog entitled "Clear Conscience" in which she said her thesis was not a good one but she said she had unanimous support from her teachers.
Liu said, as Fang's wife, she has been continually disturbed and verbally attacked by people who seek revenge against Fang.
"It's so easy to find little mistakes in a thesis after 10 years."
Chen Lidan, Liu's professor 10 years ago, who is now a journalism professor at Renmin University of China, said he has been shown the evidence, which he has turned over to the dean of the journalism school at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, where Liu got her master's degree.
Chen said he will let the school authorities decide what action to take.
Fang is known for disclosing celebrities' academic misconduct and has been in the headlines several times during the past year. Last August, he was attacked by thugs hired by Xiao Chuanguo, an urologist whom Fang had accused of academic misconduct.
Xiao was sentenced to five and a half months in detention for the attack.
Cao Yin contributed to this story.