Sunday, December 16, 2007

Liu Zihua: the Lawsuit

In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union redefined the definition of planets and declared the newly discovered "10th Planet" not a planet. Pluto is also gone from the category. Therefore, the solar system is left with only 8 planets.

Three months later, in November 2006, the Beijing 2nd Intermediate People's Court held the proceedings on the defamation case brought by Liu Zihua's wife and son against Fang Zhouzi and four media companies. The plaintiff claimed Fang had defamed Liu Zihua for his essay exposing the fraud in Liu's theory predicting a 10th Planet in the Solar system. Fang's characterization that Liu was trying to gain fame through deception (欺世盗名) was a grave personal attack and insult and caused great damage to the health and psychological welfare of Liu's family members.

The defendants presented evidences of fraud and deception, including:
  • Liu's degree certificate showed that his degree was in liberal arts, but he was presented as an astronomer
  • The parameter values Liu had predicted was far from what had measured from the new "10th planet", but it was presented as "shockingly close"
  • Liu Zihua is a public figure and should legally withstand public criticism.
After deliberation, the Beijing 2nd Intermediate People's Court decided that, while it recognizes the rights that scientific opinions are debatable, Fang Zhouzi had crossed the line to accuse Liu Zihua as deceiving. Therefore, the defendants were found guilty for defamation.

The Court ordered all defendants to make public apologies to Liu Zihua's family. Fang Zhouzi and the Beijing Science and Technology should each pay 20,000 RMB ($2,500) to the plaintiff for damage. The other defendants were spared of damage payments. The damage payout was only about 1% of what the plaintiff had asked for.

As a matter of course, the defendants appealed to the Beijing High Court. This time, Fang Zhouzi provided documented evidences of Liu Zihua's deception, gathered from memorials published by Liu's family.

In July, 2007, the Beijing High Court heard the appeal case. With the evidence, the High Court recognized that the deception did occur. However, the Court also pointed out that the evidences were published after Liu Zihua's death. The deception behaviors were the responsibility of Liu's family, not Liu himself. Therefore, Fang's claim of Liu Zihua was a man of deception himself was still not supported by the evidences.

In its verdict, the Beijing High Court further reduced the damage payout ordered by the Beijing 2nd Intermediate Court to 10% of its original amount. Fang Zhouzi is now ordered to pay only 2,000 RMB ($250), a token value. However, he is still court-ordered to publicly apologize.

So now the Court had determined that Liu Zihua's descendants had committed deception. But because it was not done by Liu himself (evidences of otherwise were ignored by the Court) and that Liu had since passed away. The defendants who had exposed the deception are now ordered to pay damage fines to Liu's family, the very people who had done the deceptions.

Very interesting, indeed.

No comments: