Chinese official sues exiled tycoon for defamation

Billionaire businessman Guo Wengui faces a defamation lawsuit filed by Chinese housing vice-minister Huang Yan in New York over claims he made that she had engaged in corruption and provided sexual favours.
Billionaire businessman Guo Wengui faces a defamation lawsuit filed by Chinese housing vice-minister Huang Yan in New York over claims he made that she had engaged in corruption and provided sexual favours.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • A Chinese government housing vice-minister has lodged a US$10 million (S$13.7 million) defamation lawsuit against exiled billionaire Guo Wengui in New York over claims he made that she had engaged in corruption and provided sexual favours.

Ms Huang Yan, vice-minister of housing and urban-rural development, filed the complaint with the New York State Supreme Court last Wednesday, saying Mr Guo's "false and outrageous" claims, made in a YouTube video in May, had caused her "severe emotional distress" and "mental anguish".

It is the first legal case brought by an individual Chinese government official since Mr Guo began accusing high-level Communist Party members of corruption, and represents an exceedingly rare instance of a senior serving official pursuing legal action against a person overseas.

Ms Huang's complaint says Mr Guo, also known as Miles Kwok, had falsely alleged that she helped real estate developers secure project approvals by providing sexual favours to a Beijing government official, and in turn received property assets from the developers who benefited.

Her complaint said that Mr Guo's statements had damaged her reputation among a large number of people, and caused many to "doubt her capabilities as a professional and a government official".

Mr Guo's corruption allegations have come in a politically sensitive year, with the Communist Party keen to ensure a key five-yearly congress to be held in the autumn goes off without a hitch.

As with other defamation cases against him, Mr Guo said he welcomes the lawsuit as a chance for both sides to air "facts" in the open.

"This is very normal," he told Reuters, adding that he believed Ms Huang had been instructed to take action by the Chinese government. "I welcome it, this is a good thing."

Ms Huang's suit was filed by lawyer Kevin Tung, who is also representing a group of Chinese creditors suing Mr Guo for US$50 million in funds they say he owes them.

Said Mr Guo's lawyer Josh Schiller: "We believe that these lawsuits are meant to put pressure on Mr Kwok to stop speaking out against the People's Republic of China."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese official sues exiled tycoon for defamation'. Print Edition | Subscribe