Thursday, November 17, 2005

Mahjong Defamation?

I’ve been asking colleagues about this Lee Teng-hui defamation verdict. Lee was ordered by the court of first instance to pay NT$10m to James Soong for saying he went to play mahjong during a post-election rally last year. The verdict apparently hinged on whether or not Lee made it clear he was referring to Soong. Two pan-green lawmakers got off the hook because they didn’t make it clear. Am I the only person who doesn’t understand how Lee’s comment can be construed as anything other than satirical?

My colleague just explained to me that Soong left an April 10, 2004 rally for 30 minutes and so there was no way he could have played a round of mahjong, which would take at least 90 minutes? So Lee exaggerated. The remark he made – “one went home to sleep [presumably Lien Chan] and one went to play mahjong [presumably Soong]” – seems to me quite offhand and not intended to be taken seriously. I asked if the “playing mahjong” is code for something else. Apparently not. But the fact that one gambles while playing mahjong puts a negative cast on it. Would this count as defamation in the West? I’d appreciate any explanations.

1 comment:

JadeB said...

Here in the UK it would probably be considered a compliment rather than defamation to suggest a politician was off playing mahjong - much more intellectual pursuit than many they could be partaking of!

Jade (The Mahjong Guide)