An article about Michael Chan recently published anonymously in Chinese media in Vancouver – Is Michael Chan a Spy or Does He Look Like a Spy? has been widely circulated in Chinese media WeChat. The article, which attacks his inappropriate close ties with China as an Ontario Minister, used a sarcastic tune and seemingly defamatory statements portraying Chan in a negative light.
The introductory of the article hurls personal insults at Chan, attacking his appearance as well as his personalities. It even likens him to several of the ugliest, most distasteful and infamous roles in the popular Chinese movies, citing that he lacks the qualities of being a “spy”.
Indeed, Chan’s opinion piece defending China’s human rights record in the wake of Wang Yi’s outburst at Canadian reporter did cause controversy and land himself in hot water. Many articles from mainstream media has put his opinion and behaviour under scrutiny, challenging his positions in Wang’s controversy, but they never make any personal attacks.
While challenges and criticisms are great and can force politicians to do right things, personal insults are unhelpful. They would reduce the quality of the articles, making an otherwise meaningful story lose its value. Articles with insulting comments make the opinions trying to express no longer convincing and woefully unworthy. They lower the author from a would be pundits to a useless heckler, leaving readers tuning outaltogether.
From the legal perspective, articles with these insulting comments lack responsible journalism. They are defamatory and libelous. Under the Canadian libel law, the authors and the publication of the articles are likely to become the targets of defamation lawsuits, and are liable for the damages claimed by the victims. No wonder such articles are often posted anonymously.
However, the article seems to be resonating well with WeChat readers and has gained support and earned many upvotes from readers. Some comments were even more offensive and libelous than those in the original article. These comments are even more troublesome, suggesting readers’ lack of sophistication and ignorance of Canadian law.
If left unchecked, they take on a dangerous path towards a form of public humiliation or a smear campaign. Chinese people are no strangers to extreme rhetoric as smear campaigns were prevalent during the Cultural Revolution that has turned the society upside down.
But today, the Cultural Revolution legacy still exerts its influence on Chinese people – including overseas Chinese. With the help of social media, smear campaigns in various forms and sizes were launched in the Toronto Chinese community over the past, as offensive and insulting comments attacking certain community members – whose behaviours or statements were not agreed upon or accepted by the many – flooded the internet, until victims launched lawsuits to seek legal remedies.
Engaging in rational dialogue and staying restrained in controversy are qualities we must have if the Chinese community expects to grow and earn respect in Canada. Whatever you believe Chan should or should not do, regardless of how much you disagree with his behaviours or words, he does not deserve any personal insults or attacks, offensive statements or smear campaign from anyone or anywhere.
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