Court orders public apologies to Chinese community

The Gauteng High Court (sitting as the Equality Court), on 28 June, strongly condemned comments made by twelve South Africans about the Chinese community on Facebook, ruling that it constituted hate speech in relation to the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination. (PEPUDA) Act.

The comments were made following a segment on Carte Blanche, which aired in January 2017, focusing on animal abuse and the donkey skin trade. Graphic scenes showed people inhumanely killing donkeys. The segment aired the day after Chinese New Year.

Following this observation, inflammatory xenophobic comments directed at the Chinese community were posted on the Facebook page of Carte Blanche and the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary.

The Gauteng Chinese Association managed to identify twelve people who had made discriminatory statements, and commenced proceedings against them in the Equality Court to declare their statements constituted hate speech.

The Association also asked the Equality Court to demand that an apology be published, that they attend a human rights sensitization course, and that they pay damages and legal costs.

Three respondents pleaded no contest, while six others admitted in court papers that their statements about PEPUDA were hate speech and unfair discrimination. They did not resist the proceedings either.

Only two respondents opposed the case – specifically, David Clive Horne and Mariette van der Linde de Klerk.

Horne – who claimed he was in no way racist towards the Chinese community – had expressed the following: “Personally, I say wipe them out. I would be the first to be there.”

Meanwhile, De Klerk’s offending post read the following: “We need to get rid of the Chinese in the US … they are not welcome, they now steal our economy, dogs, rhinos and donkeys. I think the same thing as donkeys can be applied to dogs and our pets.” Read the full judgment here

China Association describes remarks as ‘extremely harmful’

Henry Yon Wing revealed that the Facebook posts were very hurtful and that he felt he was mentally ill. He said the Facebook comments reminded him of the racism he experienced growing up in Fietas, Johannesburg, during apartheid.

Wing said he was angered by the comments because they created the impression that “white people thought they could still make very harmful, hurtful and racist comments in the new democratic South Africa”.

Erwin Ming Pon, chairman of the Gauteng Chinese Association, also gave evidence to the court. He said he was born in South Africa after his family came to the country in the 1930s, after his great-grandparents fled China due to civil unrest and war.

Pon said he and his family faced various forms of discrimination during apartheid, recounting how his grandparents were forcibly removed from Sophiatown Town and relocated to a place known as the “Malay camp” during the relocations. compulsory in the 1950s.

His parents could only buy property in Parkhurst, a “white area” as it were, because they used a white person as a front to buy the property.

Pon said that he was often bullied by other children who told him to “go back to China” and that he had to watch them pull his eyes to make fun of him. He said he was also discriminated against when he used to swim in the Parkhurst public pool because he was told to leave when white children came to swim.

Pon explained that after 1994, he hoped that apartheid-era discrimination would be “erased and forgotten” and that he was proud to finally be recognized as a South African citizen after voting in the 1994 election.

But, Pon said, after the Facebook comments were published, he became concerned for the safety of his children and family. He described the comments as violent, racist and xenophobic.

Pon explained that the Facebook posts were only removed after he contacted Emma Sadleir, a media lawyer, who wrote to the administrators of the Facebook pages to remove the comments. However, this only happened after thousands of people had viewed the posts.

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David Clive Horne, in his defence, was adamant that his comments had been taken out of context. He claimed that when he posted the word ‘they’, he was not referring to the Chinese people but was indeed referring to the gangs involved in the illegal or cruel killing of animals.

Horne said that his post was only intended to convey that people involved in animal cruelty must be held accountable.

Horne agreed that many of the comments posted about Chinese people on Facebook were unacceptable. He also said he sympathized with the hurt felt by the Chinese community. However, he claimed that his remarks were not hate speech and that he did not intend to discriminate against the Chinese people when he made the post.

In her court papers, De Klerk denied writing the Facebook post. However, she decided not to testify in her own testimony.

De Klerk was found guilty of hate speech

Judge Motsamai Makume considered three main issues: whether the posts from Horne and De Klerk constituted hate speech about PEPUDA; whether the posts made by the other respondents (who did not contest the case) amounted to hate speech; and the appropriate order the court should make.

Makume found that Horne’s Facebook post was not hate speech, accepting Horne’s assertion that his post only referred to people involved in animal cruelty, not the Chinese people.

However, he found De Klerk guilty of hate speech, after it emerged that her lawyers had written various letters to lawyers for the China Association in which she admitted (and) apologised. make the Facebook posts.

Makume said this was inconsistent with the argument that she did not do the jobs in the first place. De Klerk did not testify, explaining why her lawyers had written letters on her behalf, admitting that she had written the Facebook posts.

Unlike Horne, De Klerk’s Facebook post clearly referred to the “Chinese in SA”. The Court said that this clearly referred to the Chinese people in South Africa.

When she used the words “got rid of” it was meant to convey the impression that the Chinese in South Africa were “troublesome” or “unwanted” and should be removed.

Pon also testified that the words “got ready” created the impression that the Chinese in South Africa were considered like rats or vermin. This violated their sense of dignity and self-worth, he said.

Makume said the posts, apart from Horne, all showed intent to unfairly discriminate against Chinese people on the basis of their race and social origin.

All respondents who did not contest the case were ordered to publish an unconditional apology within 30 days and pay R50,000 each to the Hong Ning Chinese old age home.

Justice Makume also ruled that any respondent who could not pay this amount could approach the Court with an affidavit setting out their financial situation.

That respondent, in exchange for paying damages, would then have to attend a training course on how to remove hate speech from the internet and would have to provide monthly reports to the China Association detailing how many hours spent they are doing hate speech. .

They would also have to attend a human rights sensitization course conducted by the South African Human Rights Commission.

Due to her initial response to contest the case, De Klerk was ordered to pay R150,000 to the Hong Ning Chinese retirement home and was ordered to pay legal costs.

This article first appeared on GroundUp and is published with permission. Read the original article here.

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