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Chinese papers go kung fu fighting

By John Drinnan

Friday 28th November 2003

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An ideological war of words between two Chinese-language newspapers escalated into a physical confrontation outside the Sunny Town restaurant in Newmarket, Auckland, and personal attacks in the paper, the High Court heard.

In August 2000 Stephen Wong and his wife, Stella Hu of the Chinese Herald, laid a defamation claim against Weijian Chen and four others of associated with New Times Media (a company since deregistered).

In September 2003, after causing lengthy delays, Mr Chen sought leave to file an amended defence of qualified privilege.

But Justice Rhys Harrison said in a judgment issued this week that the Wongs had a right to prompt resolution of their claim.

This right took precedence over the needs of the Chens, to whom "the court had extended many but abused indulgences," the judge said.

Mr Wong alleges defamation in New Times Weekly articles published in July and August 2000, which he claims depicted him and his wife as "scum" and "evil people who commit evil deeds."

Words in the August 4 article depicted Mr Wong as "insidious and a bully, a petty troublemaker, a nuisance, arrogant and bad," Mr Wong had said.

Justice Harrison said the meanings the Chinese Herald and the Wongs attributed to the words appeared well based and the words undeniably referred to the Wongs and the Chinese Herald.

"Without pre-empting the trial judge, a finding the words were defamatory of the Wongs and the Chinese Herald seems inevitable."

The judge said the Chinese Herald and the New Times Weekly were on opposite sides of the political divide, with the Chinese Herald said to be the voice of traditional communism and the NTW espousing the cause of democracy.

"The newspapers did not express their conflicting ideologies in the western tradition of restraint. Their publishers eschewed the language of highbrow exchanges," Justice Harrison said.

"Inevitably, hostilities broke out and not just through the printed word. On July 14, 2000, before the offending publications, Mr Chen had sought to settle their differences by means of a physical confrontation outside the Sunny Town restaurant."

Justice Barry Paterson earlier granted the Chinese Herald and the Wongs an interim injunction "in unusual terms," restraining Mr Chen and his colleagues from publishing "any article, publication or document alleging the Herald or the Wongs were involved in illegal activates offshore and in New Zealand, are cheats, abductors, forgers of falsifiers of deeds, are enemies against democracy, swindlers, slanderers, are human trash or make malicious remarks about employees behind their backs."

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