The founding editor of the now-defunct Eastern Express newspaper was dismissed over 'trivial and ludicrous' allegations shortly after publishing an article that embarrassed his boss, a jury heard yesterday. Stephen Vines, who was approached by the management of the Oriental Press Group in 1993 to start a third English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, was a conscientious editor but was dismissed without good reason after about 11 months' service, Benjamin Yu SC, for Next Magazine, told the Court of First Instance. The magazine, its editor-in-chief Cheung Kim-hung and printer Toppan Printing Co (HK) Ltd are facing a libel suit brought by the Oriental Press Group, which alleges the magazine defamed it by saying it interfered with the editorial independence of the Eastern Express. The group is seeking unspecified damages. The magazine had published an article on September 16, 1994, concerning the sacking of Mr Vines. Mr Yu said although the group's chairman, Ma Ching-kwan, was initially impressed by Mr Vines' performance, their relationship changed after an article was published in the paper on May 9, 1994. That article reported on a private visit by former Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's younger brother, Deng Ken, then 83, to Hong Kong in May 1994. Mr Ma was invited to a dinner party with Mr Deng that night, but was refused entry as Mr Deng had taken great offence at the report, said Mr Yu. This 'big slap on the face' made Mr Ma 'extremely embarrassed' and he tried to cancel the newspaper column which had contained the offending remarks, but Mr Vines refused to comply with the request, the jury heard. The Eastern Express first appeared on February 1, 1994, and folded in June 1996. Mr Vines was sacked on September 9, 1994. The hearing continues before Mr Justice David Yam Yee-kwan.