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November 6, 2012

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Defamation case heats up between bakery, student

SHANGHAI Christine Foodstuff Co Ltd demanded a college student apologize after accusing her of damaging its reputation by posting false information online, Xuhui District People's Court heard yesterday.

The incident happened on April 25 when the student, surnamed Yang, posted a message on, a popular social networking website in China, saying a famous bakery was closed for allegedly using swill oil to make cakes. She advised her friends to stop buying the cakes produced by this company.

The company's Chinese name Yang referred to is ??à??1í? while the plaintiff's company name is ??àò??í?.

The message was then compiled by a netizen who wrote it was Christine that used swill oil and posted the message the next day on, one of China's biggest microblogging sites.

The post was forwarded more than 2,000 times within a day, attracting the attention of Christine International Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed company and parent company of Shanghai Christine.

The plaintiff ordered the netizen to delete the message and apologize on, which the person did. It also contacted Yang and asked her to clarify the truth.

The court heard Yang made a statement on, saying she didn't know her message to friends would stir up such a misunderstanding and she never intended to damage Christine's reputation.

However, Christine reported the case to police in Xuhui District, claiming Yang's post caused severe losses to the company as its share price dropped sharply during the period.

After the police refused the case, Christine filed a lawsuit to Xuhui District People's Court. The court opened the first hearing in August and held the second yesterday.

Yang didn't attend the hearing yesterday. Her lawyer, Fu Minrong, said the two parties failed to reach an agreement under court mediation after the first hearing.

At yesterday's hearing, Christine insisted Yang apologize on and; apologize at a press conference held by Christine; pay 1 million yuan (US$160,059) compensation to cover its financial losses, pay lawyer fees and notary fees totaling 6,700 yuan and cover court costs.

The defendant disagreed, claiming "they were all unreasonable."

"Though the four-character company name in the post has the same pronunciation as the plaintiff's name, they have two different Chinese characters," Yang's lawyer told the court.

"It was the netizen's fault for compiling my client's message and my client didn't intend to defame Christine's reputation," Fu added.

The lawyer representing Christine said the bakery has an excellent reputation in Shanghai and nearby provinces.

The rumor had definitely hurt the feelings of its customers as the company received many calls seeking clarification, the bakery's lawyer argued.

Fu told the court Christine had offered Yang an opportunity to avoid the lawsuit by apologizing at a press conference held by Christine.

"This is an insult. A public insult to a student!" Fu told the court, which didn't announce a verdict yesterday.


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