Hong Kong government contractor wins defamation case against refugee charity

Vision First ordered to pay HK$800,000 to International Social Service Hong Kong for articles it published

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 11:27pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 11:28pm

The Hong Kong government’s social welfare provider has won a defamation case against a private charity that supports refugees.

Refugee group Vision First was yesterday ordered to pay HK$800,000 to International Social Service Hong Kong (ISS-HK) after the High Court found it had published 21 articles with serious allegations defaming the government contractor over nine months starting in the summer of 2013.

‘Help the refugees who saved me’: Snowden hits out at Hong Kong government in damning video

The court also said Vision First must pay ISS-HK’s legal costs, and served an injunction against the organisation.

The case centred on 21 articles published by Vision First which contained content considered defamatory and which ISS-HK said implied it had committed serious criminal offences in relation to the handling of asylum seekers who claim they will be tortured or hurt if they return to their home country, otherwise known as “non-refoulement claimants”.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Andrew Chung On-tak wrote: “The 21 articles are quite clearly intended to, and did, convey to an ordinary reader defamatory imputations.

“The plaintiff has established that the 21 articles were defamatory of the plaintiff and were published by the defendant.”

Stephen Yau How-boa, chief executive of ISS-HK, celebrated the ruling, saying the judgement vindicated the work of his organisation and the “professionalism” of his staff.

Yau said in a statement: “We have never had any doubt of the result and are glad that the High Court’s verdict has set the record straight once and for all upholding the integrity of ISS-HK as a responsible social service organisation.

“What I found most gratifying during this long, trying period was that our service teams have chosen not to yield to pressure but to conscientiously perform their duties with professionalism and perseverance.”

The Post contacted Vision First founder Cosmo Beatson for comment.

It was unclear whether the charity would appeal the judgment. The future of the refugee support organisation and advocacy group could be threatened, if it does have to foot the bill.