Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and his wife successfully defended themselves against a full-blown appeal at the city’s top court on Wednesday – for now – over a defamation claim involving two high school students. In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, the Court of Appeal refused to give the green light to Chinese International School alumni Jonathan and Caitlin Lu, as well as their father Carl Lu, to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal against Chan and his wife, Frieda Hui Po-ming. The Lus were also ordered to pay Chan and Hui HK$150,000 for the legal costs of the appeal application. Chan and his wife were originally found liable by a jury of the Court of First Instance for defaming the two students in 2011 through six emails containing allegations that the twins had cheated on an examination at their school. But the Court of Appeal last December overturned the lower court’s decision , and the couple were spared paying HK$230,000 in compensation. This prompted the Lus to lodge the present application at the Court of Appeal seeking permission to appeal to the city’s top court. Hong Kong finance chief’s main points at a glance In rejecting their application, the three justices – Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon, Madam Justice Susan Kwan Shuk-hing and Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor – wrote that the Lus’ counsel framed the appeal based on a misinterpretation of their judgment, which overturned the finding by the lower court jury that Chan and Hui’s claims were malicious. Despite the setback on Wednesday, the Lus can still go directly to the Court of Final Appeal to ask to proceed. The six emails in question were sent between December 1 and 16, 2001; in them, Hui claimed she had heard a cheating rumour from her daughter Joyce, who attended the same school as the Lu twins. The [Court of Appeal] is entitled to set aside the verdict when it was reached ... under inadequate direction Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon The emails were jointly signed by Chan and Hui, and sent to the school and about 10 parents with a view to discussing the matter. The trial jury had found all six emails defamatory and four of them malicious. In the present appeal application, senior counsel Gerard McCoy, for the Lus, sought to challenge before top justices whether the appeal court in overturning the lower court had “usurped the role of the jury as a constitutional tribunal of fact” to determine whether Hui knew the rumour was false before spreading it. McCoy also wished to clarify whether the appeal court had found the jury verdict “perverse”. But Lam said the trial judge had failed to give adequate direction to the jury regarding the legal concept of malice. “It cannot be disputed that the [Court of Appeal] is entitled to set aside the verdict when it was reached by the jury under inadequate direction and misdirection of law,” he said. He also clarified the appeal court’s earlier judgment should not be interpreted as finding the jury verdict perverse.