Peking University to sue former professor for libel
Updated: 2012-09-03 01:46
By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)
Peking University has announced it is suing a former professor for libel over claims he made about a sex scandal at the college.
The college is seeking an apology and damages from Zou Hengfu, an economist who falsely alleged that its deans and directors had sexually harassed waitresses working on campus.
“Zou’s micro blog posts have caused severe damage to the reputation of Peking University and our teachers, and hurt the feelings of our students and alumni, as well as the feelings of innocent waitresses,” Jiang Langlang, Peking University spokesman, said on Sunday.
He said that because the university has launched legal proceedings, it will cease to respond to questions related to the issue.
Zou, a Harvard University graduate who worked for Peking University from 1998 until his dismissal in 2007, originally posted his allegations on Aug 21.
Writing on his micro blog, he alleged that waitresses at Mengtaoyuan Restaurant on campus had suffered harassment at the hands of college employees. The post was forwarded 25,000 times within two days.
However, the professor, who now works as a senior economist at the World Bank, later admitted he was exaggerating.
“I acknowledge that sex allegations attract eyeballs, and this was my strategy,” he wrote on his micro blog. “I always like exaggerating when talking. This is my style.
“I hope Peking University will not just investigate the restaurant allegation. What I was targeting was a problem that exists in education nationwide.”
China Daily was unable to contact Zou before going to press on Sunday.
Peking University initially responded to the allegations on Aug 23, saying it had set up a disciplinary panel to investigate. The college also wrote to Zou, asking him for a face-to-face meeting before Aug 26.
On Wednesday, Peking University released a statement on its website saying it had contacted Zou, but he had been unable to provide any concrete evidence for his allegations.
Jiang on Sunday added: “Now he has admitted he was exaggerating. His behavior reveals how shameless and irresponsible he is and the dirty heart behind his acts.”
However, Zhang Ming, a professor and education columnist at Renmin University of China, said Peking University should have sued Zou earlier.
“If the university felt Zou’s micro blog had damaged its reputation, it should have resorted to the law at the very beginning, instead of investigating by itself first,” he said.
Legal Evening News in Beijing reported that Mengtaoyuan Restaurant is also planning to sue Zou, as his posts had led to customers asking for sex service.