Heated online spat goes to court

Updated: 2012-02-03 22:43


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SHANGHAI - An online spat between a best-selling writer and a well-known anti-fraud activist during the Spring Festival holiday entered the legal arena Friday, as a court in Shanghai said it had received litigation materials from the writer.

Han Han, a 29-year-old writer, race car driver and one of Time magazine's "World's Most Influential People" in 2010, said last Sunday that he intended to bring legal proceedings against Fang Zhouzi, a prominent fraud exposer, and seek 100,000 yuan ($15,826) in compensation after Fang posted a series of articles on his microblog accusing Han of employing ghostwriters.

A source with the People's Court of Shanghai's Putuo district confirmed that Han's lawyer submitted evidence and litigation materials to the court on Friday. The court is required to take action within seven working days.

The online dispute was instigated by a netizen nicknamed "Mai Tian" who accused Han of taking credit for someone else's work. Mai Tian apologized to Han in mid-January.

However, Fang heard about the accusation and raised his own doubts about Han's works, including the 1999 essay "Seeing Ourselves in a Cup," which was written by Han when he was still in high school and won him first place in China's New Concept Writing Competition.

Han updated his blog early Friday morning, stating that his original intent in resorting to legal measures was to prove his innocence.

"It doesn't matter to me. I will continue to analyze Han's works," Fang said after reading Han's blog. "It was no surprise that Han appealed to the court. This may draw more attention to the debate and may urge the truth to come out."

Some netizens have supported Fang, scrutinizing Han's works and looking for evidence of ghostwriting, while others have given all-out support for Han.

One netizen using the screenname "beautifulfaery" said he supports both parties in the dispute, as it "highlights the necessity of the spirit of doubt." Another netizen using the screenname "xiao mao" said a "rational response and tolerance" are needed when facing criticism.

Literary criticism should be encouraged within the academic community, said Zhang Hongbo, director-general of the China Written Works Copyright Society (CWWCS).

However, public figures should draw a lesson from the dispute and adopt proper ways to respond to doubts and criticism, Zhang said.

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