Kong Qingdong, descendant of Confucius, sponsor of the Confucius Peace Prize, and xenophobic asshole, has been ordered by a Beijing court to apologise to a law student for calling him a “dog” and a “traitor” online, the Beijing News reports.
On Wednesday, the Haidian District People’s Court ordered Kong to pay 200 yuan in damages to Guan Kaiyuan, a Beijing law student who he attacked on Weibo. Kong also had to pay 1,000 yuan in costs to the court.
In addition, the court held that Kong must publish an apology to Guan in a national publication.
As much as I hate Kong and his ilk, this is fucking ridiculous.
The case revolves around a poem posted by Kong online. Guan commented on Weibo that the poem didn’t follow compositional rules for a seven-character poem. Kong, in a huge overreaction responded: “You haven’t even read the poem, you dog and traitor”. While this is hardly behaviour becoming of a Peking University professor, nor is it the worst thing anyone’s said on the internet, and, if anything, Guan’s response was even more ridiculous than Kong’s.
Instead of ignoring the comments like a normal person, the 22 year old filed a suit against Kong for defamation and emotional damage. While arguably he would have a (very slim) case for defamation, Guan did not use his real name online, he was not therefore defamed before he outed himself as the anonymous commenter.
Kong’s defence argued that since Guan did not use his real name online, insults directed at his online pseudonym could not affect him personally. This is a sound argument, and it’s hugely disappointing that the court did not accept it. The ruling potentially sets a precedent for any anonymous troll claiming defamation or emotional damage when someone responds to them un-anonymously. After all, had Kong been using a pseudonym like Guan was, no lawsuit could have been filed.
Guan, who seems to be an even bigger dick than Kong, an impressive feat, plans to appeal the verdict. He wants to force Kong to issue an apology on Weibo, where he has over 2.3 million fans.
“The money doesn’t matter to me,” Guan told the South China Morning Post. “What mattered was principle. How can a celebrity get away with going around insulting people?”
There is a much more important principle at play here, freedom of speech.