If you can’t stand people being nasty to you, stay out of politics

The man above, the wannabe politician Steven Chin, is being sued for (pauses for effect) defamation by another politician, Raymond Huo.

Labour MP Raymond Huo claims he was the target of a nasty campaign leading up to the election that falsely accused him of having a criminal record and then asking police to wipe it.

Huo’s lawyer Kalev Crossland filed defamation documents in the Auckland High Court last week against People’s Party president Steven Ching[*] and his wife Ailian Su, who he says spread false material damaging to Huo.

Crossland, who said the papers would be served this week, claimed that Ching and Su republished material in the lead-up to the election on popular Chinese social media app WeChat – a popular platform with broad reach in the Auckland Chinese community.

Ching told the Herald he did not write the material, nor did he know who had written it, and legal action against him and his wife was “not fair”.

Of course, it isn’t fair.  This is lawfare.  Defamation action in New Zealand is almost exclusively used to punish.  Because being sued for defamation guarantees two things.  You have to prove yourself innocent, and even if you win your defence fully, you get nothing and still have to pay your lawyers for invoices that will run into the hundreds of thousands.

“This was done very strategically in the lead-up to the election. If you’ve got a question mark over you, even if it’s not true, it might tip them away from voting for Raymond. It was a really nasty thing to have done.

“Many clients would seek aggravated damages, but Raymond just wants his name cleared.”

Right.  And saddle Chin with a huge bill for his defence.

Huo sent cease-and-desist letters to Ching and Su after the material surfaced. Ching and Su subsequently issued a press release saying they did not write the material, though they found the contents interesting and they had shared it among friends.

Court documents say: “The plaintiff’s reputation has been seriously damaged, and the plaintiff and his family has suffered considerable distress and embarrassment and, due to the permanent nature of online publication, will continue to have his reputation damaged.”

According to a recent court ruling, online publications remain in play as defamatory as they are considered to be “published” every time someone looks at it.  There is no longer a time limit on these like there is with newspapers and broadcast media as they are considered to be ephemeral.  How this relates to books, periodicals and other items ending up in libraries is still to be determined.

The Streisand effect is in full play here, and Huo’s alleged misconduct is now spread much wider than the Chinese voter community.   Ask other defamation-happy politicians how that’s worked out for them.  The court of public opinion will generally go against the person using the courts as a weapon.  And when it comes down to politicians having a go at each other, nobody ever wins anything.

Except for the lawyers and the media who will be feasting off the spectacle like vultures.

 

– NZ Herald

[*] the People’s Party website says Chin.

 


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