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Libel Case Ends with Conciliation

The libel case involving Chinese-British writer Hong Ying and British plaintiff Chen Xiaoying has finally been concluded, with the two sides coming to a conciliatory agreement.


Chen sued Hong Ying for defamation of her mother in the novel K: The Art of Love.


Chen's mother Ling Shuhua (1900-90) was a well-known Chinese writer in the 1930s.


The Intermediate People's Court in Changchun, in northeast China's Jilin Province, took the case and ruled in December last year against novelist Hong Ying, who was ordered to pay the plaintiff 100,000 yuan (US$12,000), plus all legal costs, which totaled a further 100,000 yuan according to receipts handed to the court by the plaintiff.


In addition, the verdict required Hong Ying to publish an apology in a national newspaper.


Hong Hing refused to accept the verdict and appealed to the higher level court. As a result, the Supreme People's Court of Jilin Province retried the case on July 15 and 16.


The argument between the lawyers on both sides focused on whether this novel was really pornographic.


"The lawyers on both sides were really excellent, and so was the judge." Hong Ying said.


The trial lasted for two days, when the two parties reached a conciliatory agreement, which allows the publication of the novel on the Chinese mainland, but under a different title: English Lover. It also requires that the depiction of the heroine, who the plaintiff said represents her mother, should be changed, and also the role of the heroine's husband.


Hong Ying promised that she would publish an apology in the Changchun-based magazine Chinese Writers, in which some episodes of the novel have been published. Hong said that she would also like to give the plaintiff 80,000 yuan (US$9,630) for the costs she incurred lodging the suit and hiring lawyers.


The plaintiff did not appear in court. She was satisfied with the new verdict, Hong Ying quoted some local newspaper reports as saying.


Chen Xiaoying first sued Hong Ying for libel at the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing in April 2001, but the court rejected the suit in July that year on the grounds that both parties are British citizens.


Chen appealed to the Beijing Intermediate Court, which rejected the suit in December of the same year.


Then Chen brought the case to the Changchun People's Court, bringing in the Changchun-based magazine Chinese Writers and Sichuan Youth Daily as co-defendants.


In a statement, Chen said Hong Ying had based the novel on the life of Chen's mother Ling Shuhua and her father Chen Xiying, and that Hong made up a lot of the "disgusting" details.


Chen maintained that the publication of episodes of the novel in magazines and newspapers had damaged the reputations of her mother and father and caused her mental anguish.


Hong denied the accusation during the court hearing in June that year.


The Observer newspaper in London quoted Hong as saying that the visit to China by Julian Bell (1908-37), a poet and the nephew of Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was the springboard for her ideas for the novel.


Fu Guangming, a researcher with the China Research Institute of Modern Literature, who acted as Chen's representative, was quoted by the Chinese media as saying that "Hong did stress that she was writing a 'pure novel,' but that she may have forgotten that she stated that she based her novel on true events, both in the preface she wrote for the edition published in Taiwan and in the Changchun-based magazine Chinese Writers.


However, the plaintiff's lawyer failed to produce the edition published in Taiwan in court.


In an interview with the Chinese media in 2001, Fu also said the character K, as depicted by Hong, was a "loose woman." The novel contains many erotic descriptions, Fu said.


The novel K: The Art of Love was first published in Chinese in Taiwan in 1999 and was translated into Swedish, French and Dutch in 2000. A Chinese version was published on the Chinese mainland by Huashan Publishing House, based in Shijiazhuang, the capital of north China's Hebei Province, at the end of 2001. And English translation was published in 2002.


Hong Ying said the concessions she has made are not important, what really matters is her re-establishment of a peaceful life, which will enable her to continue her writing.


(China Daily July 31, 2003)

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