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May 4, 2013

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Giant bakery loses lawsuit against student

SHANGHAI Christine Foodstuff Co Ltd lost its lawsuit in which it accused a college student of damaging its reputation by posting false information online, Xuhui District People's Court ruled yesterday.

The company demanded that the student, surnamed Yang, pay 1 million yuan (US$162,319) in compensation. Yang posted a message on social networking website on April 25, 2012, saying a famous bakery was closed for using swill oil to make cakes. She also advised her friends to stop buying its cakes, court records say.

The Chinese name of the company Yang used was ??à??1í?, while the plaintiff's company name is ??àò??í?. The two names have the same pronunciation in Chinese - Ke Li Si Ting in pinyin - but two of the characters in the name are different.

A netizen wrote another version of the story on, one of China's biggest microblogging sites, but said the swill oil was used by Christine. The post used the cake company's name in Chinese. The chain has 543 outlets in Shanghai.

The post was forwarded over 2,000 times in a day, attracting the attention of Christine International Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed company and parent of Shanghai Christine. It said the public was misled to believe it used swill oil to make cakes, which caused great losses since its share price dropped sharply during the period.

It ordered the netizen to delete the message and apologize on, which that person did.

The company 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 things up and she never intended to damage Christine's reputation.

However, Christine went to police in Xuhui District. After police refused to take the case, Christine filed a lawsuit at Xuhui District People's Court. Christine insisted Yang apologize on and, apologize at a press conference, pay 1 million yuan for losses, pay fees totaling 6,700 yuan and cover court costs.

The court denied all demands yesterday.

"Though Yang posted false information, it caused little effect on Christine and she had no malice," the ruling said, adding that Yang didn't tarnish Christine's reputation.

"Citizens have the right of freedom of speech on the Internet, but they cannot make conjecture with groundless claims," the ruling said. "Yang should be warned and criticized for what she has done."

Christine must pay court costs of 5,333.50 yuan.

The company declined to say yesterday if it would appeal.


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