Hong Kong company told to pay damages for distributing defamatory magazine

HK company ordered to pay damages for circulating defamatory mainland publication

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 6:43am

Businesswoman Solina Chau Hoi-shuen yesterday won HK$650,000 in compensation from a Hong Kong distributor of Beijing-based Caijing for defamation after the financial magazine accused her of offering a bribe to a former senior mainland official.

Chau, director of the Li Ka-shing Foundation, was wrongly said by the magazine to have offered US$500,000 to the official - who has since been jailed for bribe-taking - over projects related to Cheung Kong (Holdings), a company owned by Li Ka-shing. This was reported in two articles Caijing published in 2010.

Recorder Mr Patrick Fung Pak-tung yesterday ordered SEEC Media Group, which had sent copies of the magazine to 180 subscribers in Hong Kong and overseas, to pay the damages for its negligence in not checking the articles before sending them out.

"In view of the prominence of the plaintiff as a businesswoman and a philanthropist in Hong Kong and on the mainland … and the nature and gravity of the defamation, but taking into account the relatively small size of the circulation … I assess general damages in the sum of HK$650,000," Fung wrote.

"[If] anyone from the defendant would just care to take a casual look at the cover of [the] issue … he or she would have noticed the words 'involving the richest man Li Ka Shing'. This should at once ring an alarm bell and should have caused the defendant to look at the relevant articles inside to make sure that there was nothing libellous about Mr Li Ka Shing … [and] in turn … the plaintiff [Chau]."

At the hearing, a retired mainland vice-minister of education and a former top official of a US university testified favourably about Chau's character and credentials.

A mainland court had ruled last December that Beijing Caijing Magazine Limited was liable for defamation and ordered the company to publish an apology.