Falun Gong practitioners in Italy filed a libel suit against Europe Overseas Chinese News - a Chinese newspaper published in Italy - for slandering Falun Gong. The case ended on July 6th 2006. A court in Milan issued a verdict announcing that Falun Gong practitioners had prevailed. The newspaper's chief editor and a reporter called Jiang Ming, who co-wrote the article attacking Falun Gong under the pen name Tai Shan, received fines. Minghui correspondent Wu interviewed Ms. Lan Ning, a Falun Gong practitioner in Italy.
Reporter: Hello, Ms. Lan Ning. A Milan court convicted the Europe Overseas Chinese News, a Chinese newspaper in Italy, of libel. What happened that made you bring suit?
Lan: Around the end of 2001 and early in 2002, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wanted to export the persecution of Falun Gong abroad, so Chinese consulates and embassies in Italy organised several photo exhibitions to "expose and attack" Falun Gong. All the content in the exhibits were fabricated incidents and were slanderous of Falun Gong.
Several other Chinese media including Europe Overseas Chinese News reported on the photo exhibition. They quoted exclusively the CCP's slanderous propaganda against Falun Gong, which made many overseas Chinese people believe that hate propaganda, without any understanding of Falun Gong. They were filled with hatred toward Falun Gong practitioners. Falun Gong practitioners in Italy filed lawsuits with courts in Milan and Rome against these Chinese media and against people who slandered Falun Gong through the Chinese media in Italy.
Reporter: I read a report that said the Italian judge announced in court that the defendants or other people who said or wrote things to slander Falun Gong had sufficient resources and readily available access to learn the facts about Falun Gong. Why do you think they still slandered Falun Gong?
Lan: There are several reasons. First, they admit they did it with the motivation from and arrangements by the Chinese Consulate. They did not initiate it. The Chinese Consulate arranged for some Chinese people to be interviewed by pro-CCP media to say bad things about Falun Gong. This is the main reason. Another reason is a few individuals did actively follow the CCP's policy of persecution against Falun Gong.
Reporter: What are the consequences for the Europe Overseas Chinese News after they lost the case?
Lan: They were issued fines of under 100,000 Euros.
Reporter: A criminal case carries more weight than a civil lawsuit. What are the implications for the defendants in terms of their work and life in Italy after they were handed a guilty verdict?
Lan: People from Mainland China and other countries should know that you must present a document to prove you are free of crimes before you go through any major process. In this case, the defendants would have to present a document that says he has been convicted of libel, and his reputation would be adversely affected. A bad reputation would hurt his livelihood in many regards, such as looking for a job, applying for a loan and dealing with various segments of the government and people.
Reporter: This lawsuit, begun in 2002, went on for four years. Why did it take so long?
Lan: We filed it as a criminal lawsuit. According to Italian law, after a criminal lawsuit is filed, the first stage is investigation. The police and other related government agencies investigated the defendants. The investigations alone took some time. We also had numerous in-court arguments and clarified the facts. The whole process took four years.
The initial stage of the case is for the preliminary court to decide whether this case will stand. The judge at the time felt this case to be different.
Reporter: Why did he think it is different and how?
Lan: The nature and background of this case are different. It was happening against a much broader background. This libel suit involved a much greater social picture.
Reporter: The "big picture", meaning the persecution of Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party?
Lan: Yes, such background makes this case stand out. The Falun Gong practitioners' lawyer said in an announcement after the verdict was issued, "I want to remind all of us that the CCP started out by smearing Falun Gong's reputation when the persecution began." In fact, only after destroying Falun Gong's reputation would people become so indifferent toward the persecution and for the persecution to last for so long.
The preliminary court judge also saw that [on the surface] this is a media libel suit, but in fact behind the allegations is the CCP and Jiang group's persecution policy against Falun Gong.
Reporter: This lawsuit took place in Milan, Italy, where lots of Chinese people live. Since the suit was in process for four years, many Chinese people would have learned about it. What is their reaction?
Lan: This suit first sent shockwaves through the Chinese community. Around 2002, pro-CCP Chinese media published tons of reports to slander Falun Gong. There were lots of such articles, so at the time few Chinese people knew the truth about Falun Gong. They had this propaganda suddenly shoved in front of them and they thought, "Oh, so Falun Gong is bad." They were busy pursuing their livelihoods and didn't have much time to learn the facts.
After Falun Gong practitioners filed the lawsuit against Europe Overseas Chinese News, the paper not only didn't print a retraction, but instead spread information of the lawsuit in the Chinese community in a very negative way. It was trying to foster hatred and instigate hatred against Falun Gong. That was its plan.
The actual outcome was exactly the opposite of what the defendants had expected. Many Chinese people didn't know about it in the first place, but after the publicising done by Europe Overseas Chinese News, many Chinese people learned about it and said to each other, "Falun Gong practitioners have brought them to court. If Falun Gong practitioners were wrong, they wouldn't have the guts to file a lawsuit." So, many Chinese people started thinking about it and started to doubt the CCP propaganda.
During the past few years, many Chinese people asked us, "How is the lawsuit coming along?" Many people are really concerned about it. I believe the outcome of this lawsuit will greatly encourage many kind people and serve as a warning to those who follow in the CCP's footsteps. Laws in this world do not allow evildoers to bully kind and innocent people.
Reporter: After the verdict, what was the reaction of Europe Overseas Chinese News and people who published Falun Gong-slandering articles in the Italian Chinese media?
Lan: We haven't talked to them since the verdict was issued. Before, however, most of them knew that they had made a mistake. They told us that the Chinese Consulate forced them to do it, and they didn't want to do it, although there are still a few people who are not clear about Falun Gong. We hope they can clear-headedly, rationally and seriously think about their own future through this case.
Reporter: The case in Milan has ended. Is there any other lawsuit in progress in Italy?
Lan: Yes. Back in 2002, we filed lawsuits against all Chinese media and people who published or wrote articles to slander Falun Gong practitioners. Therefore there was more than one lawsuit. Several of them were filed in Rome and several were filed in Milan. All of these lawsuits passed the preliminary investigations and became official. They were tried in corresponding courts. The suit in Milan has ended and Falun Gong practitioners won the case, resulting in the chief editor and reporter Jiang Ming at the Europe Overseas Chinese News being convicted of libel. The lawsuit in Rome is still pending.
Reporter: What do you think will happen with the Rome lawsuit?
Lan: Our mentality throughout the entire lawsuit was actually calm and uncomplicated. We just wanted to uphold justice and make the facts known. Falun Gong practitioners follow Truthfulness- Compassion - Tolerance. We only speak the truth, that the CCP had no reason to persecute Falun Gong practitioners. All of the charges it came up with are fabricated and none of them are true. In a fair judicial environment where both sides can speak freely, the judge would naturally reach a fair verdict in accordance with the law.
Reporter: Thank you.
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