‘Supporting Taiwan independence’ ruled slanderous in China as actress Ruby Lin sues Weibo accuser

Phoebe Zhang

A Beijing court has ruled that a social media user should apologise to Taiwanese actress Ruby Lin for calling her a Taiwan independence supporter, and pay her 60,000 yuan (US$8,500) in compensation.

“The Weibo account was registered and used by an individual surnamed Huang, and the posts contained content that were largely abusive and anger-venting in nature, as well as descriptions that were not fact-based, such as ‘Taiwan independence’, which constitute insult and slander to the plaintiff,” the Beijing-based Xingquan Law Firm, which sued on behalf of Lin, quoted Beijing Haidian District Court as saying on Wednesday.

From August 2016 to October 2017, the account on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, featured hundreds of posts that slandered 43-year-old Lin, the law firm’s statement said.

During the trial, Huang said that the posts were responses to other fans and not directed at Lin. However, the court decided that most of the content amounted to insult and slander against Lin and exceeded the range of rightful criticism of a public figure, the statement said.

Huang’s account was no longer visible, and was shown as having been shut down “due to complaints that it violated Weibo regulations”. The precise content of the posts is not known.

Last year, Lin’s television programme My Dear Boy, which she produced as well as starred in, was cancelled in mainland China after two episodes. Mainlanders expressed unhappiness over Lin and the programme receiving funding from Taiwan’s ministry of culture, and accused her of supporting independence for the self-ruled island. Lin’s studio had issued a statement on Weibo declaring that such comments were based on rumours and were slanderous.

“The internet isn’t outside the law,” Lin’s studio said on Weibo on Wednesday. “We will fight to the end any malicious slandering and rumours. The law will not be merciful on the offenders.”

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Other celebrities have faced a career-threatening backlash in mainland China over perceived pro-independence stances.

In March, Taiwanese actress and musician Ouyang Nana declared her love for China in a television appearance after claims that she was a supporter of Taiwan independence.

The following month, Taiwanese actress and model Tiffany Ann Hsu apologised for “liking” a social media post that mainlanders found offensive, and wrote a letter to the state broadcaster, saying: “There is only one China in this world. I do not support Taiwan independence. I hate separatism.”

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Film and television content featuring actors who had expressed support for Taiwanese independence was last year banned from being screened on the mainland.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a renegade province subject to eventual unification with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Lin rose to fame on the mainland in 1998, after playing one of the main characters in the television series My Fair Princess, a Cinderella-esque story based on books written by Taiwanese author Chiung Yao, which found popularity across Asia.

She went on to win roles in other highly successful films and television series, including the 2000 action film China Strike Force.

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