• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 6:42pm

Wen Jiabao

Premier of China between 2003 and 2013, Wen Jiabao served as vice-premier between 1998 and 2002. Wen, who was born in 1942, spent 14 years working in Gansu province’s geological bureau before being promoted in 1982 to vice-minister of geology and mineral resources. Wen graduated from the Beijing Institute of Geology in 1968 and has a master’s degree in geology. He was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee between 2002 and 2012. 



Wen Jiabao's family 'unlikely to sue' New York Times

Threat of legal action for defamation over report of 'hidden wealth' is only a gesture, experts say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 7:42am

Legal action threatened against The New York Times by two mainland law firms representing the family of Premier Wen Jiabao is unlikely to occur in the near future as the potential consequences would be detrimental to the premier, experts say.

In a statement on Saturday night, two lawyers who say they represent the Wen family, said: "We will continue to make clarifications regarding untrue reports by The New York Times, and reserve the right to hold it legally responsible." The US newspaper published an article about the family's alleged growing wealth during his tenure.

Wang Weidong, managing partner of the Beijing office of the Grandall Law Firm and one of the two lawyers, told the South China Morning Post yesterday that he and Bai Tao, a partner in the Beijing office of the Jun He Law Firm, had "issued the statement on [the Wen family's] behalf".

He Weifang, a law expert at Peking University, said the statement was more of a gesture than a substantial legal document. "It was a demonstration of the attitude of a single party [the Wen family], intended to show the Chinese public that [The New York Times] report wasn't factually correct," He said.

If the Wen family does take the Times to court, it could be a formidable undertaking.

"Then the case would get bigger … and even out of control," He said. "Based on this rationale, I reckon it's not likely [the Wen family] would sue The Times."

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, said in an e-mail to the Post: "We are standing by our story, which we are incredibly proud of and which is an example of the quality investigative journalism The Times is known for."

Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing-based civil rights lawyer specialising in press freedom and defamation cases, said the statement was more like a declaration of innocence. "It's understandable why the family asked the lawyers to make the statement, but to me it didn't say anything. It's more like a public oath or some act of public relations."

Pu added the denials in the statement were "very weak" and that it would be difficult to succeed in any court action against The Times if the family did not produce substantial evidence.

"Whatever the potential scenario is, it would be detrimental to Wen," Pu said.

Mo Shaoping, another Beijing-based rights lawyer, said the timing for legal action was not good.

"It's very difficult to judge [from the statement] if the Wen family would sue the paper," Mo said, adding that any lawsuit would have to wait until after the 18th party congress.

Mo, who represented former Times researcher Zhao Yan who was accused of leaking state secrets, said if the lawsuit took place in China, it would be hard for The Times to win.

"They [the Times] would have to unveil their sources and - even if they do that - the authorities would have the power and try to make the sources deny their earlier comments to the paper."

A defamation lawsuit is hugely different under Chinese law compared with the US, he added. In America, it is hard for an official or public figure to win a libel lawsuit against the media as the constitution protects freedom of speech. In China, if the press cannot prove every single fact in the story, it is subject to libel, Mo said.

He, of Peking University, said in recent memory a top party leader had never brought a defamation or libel suit to court.


More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

The Times should sue in return for defamation of their reputation as ‘liers’.
let’s get this case going – what exactly is true and what are lies - we all want to know!
they can’t hide mountains of ‘excrement’ under more and more layers of stuff forever. eventually there is such a stench in the air that it becomes futile and eventually needs to be cleaned out…
A top member of the Beijing kleptocracy without hidden wealth?
OI think we know why they are not really going to sue. First, it would just bring more attention to the issue. Secondly, the absolute defense to libel/slander/defamation is truth. How can Wen'f family be defamed if it turns out to be factually true? The announcement of this possible lawsuit was a stupid mistake by inexperienced Chinese lawyers who know nothing of Public Affairs. They just dug this hole deeper and kept it on the front page another week. Good job.
I think the lawyes realized that in the US the judiciary is not a rubber stamp court and trials do not last just 1 day as they do in china.
When a lawyer or individual says he or she is reserving the right to sue, it's usually a lame threat used when one has no way to sue. The lawyers would have to prove that the article by the New York Times contained false information and an intent to libel. From reading about this, seems the Times bent over backwards to prove its case, and Times lawyers did the same. I don't think there's much you can do when you're facing the truth--unless it's a biased Communist Party court hearing such a case.
this is an outrage
we do not have 2.7 billion USD in assets
everyone knows it is currently around 2 billion !
If he doesn't sue or produce cogent evidence, we'll all be left to conclude that the NY Time got it right, of course.
A heckuva lot of skeletons in that closet that don't want to see the light of day!


SCMP.com Account