Macau (MNA) – Local Chinese newspaper Son Pou and its columnist Lei Kong are facing a lawsuit for defamation filed by Hong Kong-listed real estate developer Polytec Asset Holdings Limited, following comments by Lei that the developer had ‘allegedly deceived’ its buyers in regard to the aborted Pearl Horizon project.
Speaking to Macau News Agency (MNA), Mr. Lei said the lawsuit is “the rich and powerful” suppressing the freedom of local journalism and speech.
“The accusation is preposterous,” he remarked. “I suspect that [suppressing the freedom of journalism and speech] is their main goal.”
Lei stated that the company, with its capacity to spend millions on the lawsuit, is posed to exhaust the newspaper and himself financially, with the aim to “shut us up”.
Chao Chong Peng, the publisher of Son Pou, who has also spoken to MNA, said Polytec never approached them to complain about the column’s content.
“Polytec did not approach or make any clarification to us at all; they just sent the legal letter to us at once,” said Mr. Chao.
“It is very overbearing behaviour on their part,” he noted.
According to Article 24 of the city’s media law on the right of clarification, targeted entities should first inform and clarify media about incorrect or false reporting or information, with the media having the duty to make clarifications to the public.
Both Mr. Lei and Mr. Chao stressed that there are no private interests involved.
“[Neither] the columnist nor anyone working for the newspaper are buyers of Pearl Horizon,” said the publisher.
As a publisher, Mr. Chao does not see the reason for not allowing the column to be published when the content “has a legal basis.”
“Over the years, Polytec did not follow those contracts and did not compensate the buyers,” Mr. Chao indicated. “As a publisher, [what Lei had written] is true and there is no reason for me to suppress freedom of speech and not allow the column to be published.”
He added that the company had only recently suggested compensation after the government, legislators and members of associations had criticised its handling of the case.
Asked whether they are confident about the lawsuit, Mr. Lei stated they should win the lawsuit in accordance with the law.
“But I’m also worried that the company is too powerful and that the result of the lawsuit might be unpredictable,” said the columnist.
MNA requested comment from Polyec but had received no reply by the time of writing.
The case will be heard by the Court of First Instance (TSI) on October 3.