Billionaire in China Sues Social Media for Malicious Rumors

One of the richest men in China has taken legal action against what he called rumor mongers that he accused of spreading fake news about his company and him.

The huge Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, has filed several lawsuits in China against social media accounts, which it says had circulated malicious rumors about its billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin

Some news outlets in Chinese reported last week on social media that Wang was stopped while at an airport and prevented from leaving the country. Wanda dismissed those reports as being rumors made up with ulterior motives.

Nevertheless, shares of one subsidiary of Wanda listed on the Hong Kong exchange, were down 8% during that day.

The rumors arrived amidst increased scrutiny by authorities in China of deal making internationally by Wanda as well as other companies based in China.

That made investors concerned in China, where top leaders of business have at times just disappeared without any explanation. Wang used a July speech to fight back earlier speculation about rumored problems related to his real estate company.

Now, he has taken new groups and users of social media to court for the most recent rumors.

Wanda on Wednesday, through a prepared statement said it filed lawsuits against New People Magazine, Asia News Weekly and other groups, seeking public apologies as well as 5 million yuan equal to $765,000 for compensation from each party.

The statement said Wanda was also pursuing criminal charges in certain cases.

Wanda said groups used their WeChat accounts or their Weibo accounts to spread rumors that Wang was not allowed to leave China. WeChat is China’s equivalent to WhatsApp and Weibo is equivalent to Twitter.

A founder of a consumer rights business on Internet said he has been shocked to hear Wanda filed the lawsuit against him. He said he reposted fake news that had been reported by standard news groups, but deleted the posts when he found them to be misleading.

He apologized to Wang, but does not have the means to pay Wanda 5 million yuan that was demanded by Wanda.

The company announced that it was considering filing a $2 million defamation lawsuit from Boxun, a Chinese language U.S. based news site. Boxun has not made any public comment about the possible defamation suit.

For months, Wang has been fending off rumors as he dumped a big deal involving real estate in London in August and in July sold a number of theme parks and hotels.