In what the state-run Xinhua news agency called a “fight between Titans of the written word,” a popular and outspoken Chinese writer filed suit in China on Tuesday against another author who accused him of having a ghostwriter. The libel suit against Fang Zhouzi, a prominent muckraking blogger, followed days of rumor and debate on Chinese microblogs about whether a ghostwriter had been behind the large body of work published by Han Han, 29, an author and race car driver. Mr. Han is seeking roughly $16,000, claiming damage to his reputation. His publisher told Xinhua that a judge would decide on Thursday whether to accept the case.
The first accusation of ghostwriting came from two weeks ago after another well-known Chinese blogger, Mai Tian, speculated — based on the dates and times of Mr. Han’s car races and those of some of his published posts — that he could not have been the author. Mai Tian also asserted that Mr. Han’s father was involved in the ghostwriting, according to the blog EastSouthWestNorth, which has a timeline and translations of some of the back-and-forth between blogs and social media sites that led to the lawsuit. On Jan, 15, the IT microblogger Mai Tian posted “Manmade Han Han: A Farce About ‘Citiizenry’ ” in which he alleges that the “miracle” of Chinese writer Han Han was created by his father, Han Renjun, and his marketing team. This blog post has been removed by Mai Tian since. Mr. Han responded by offering a $3.2 million reward to anyone who could provide proof that his works were ghostwritten, and Mr. Mai relented, deleting the post and apologizing. Nevertheless, the story gathered momentum on the microblogs, known as weibo, which filled with nearly 15 million posts on the subject, according to Xinhua. Mr. Fang stoked the fiery debate by observing that many of Mr. Han’s posts had disappeared from the Internet. “Posting a reward to look for evidence, while at the same time destroying the proof, makes people feel his claims of innocence lack sincerity,” Mr. Fang wrote on his microblog, Xinhua reported. Mr. Han said the posts were deleted for copyright reasons at the request of his publishing house. Others leaped into the fray to defend Mr. Han, who continues to maintain his large following and bad-boy persona despite drawing fire from some dissidents last month for his seemingly lukewarm words about the prospect for democracy in China. An actress friend, Fan Bingging, said on her microblog that she would pay another $3.2 million in addition to Mr. Han’s reward to anyone who could prove that any of his work had been written by another person, according to EastSouthWestNorth. “If you read the microblogs posted by Fang Zhouzi concerning his accusation against me, you will find clear evidence of actual malice,” Mr. Han said in an interview on Monday quoted by Xinhua. Mr. Fang, for his part, told China Daily that he was not out to ruin Mr. Han’s reputation. “Why should I bother to defame him?” he said. “I don’t even know him. There is no grudge between us.”
The Chinese state media were quick to post English-language coverage of the debate, exhibiting some apparent glee at the feud. An opinion column in the state-run English-language China Daily argued on Wednesday that Han Han was probably innocent of the accusations against him for the simple reason that his writing was not very good. “A cost-benefit analysis doesn’t support hiding behind someone to produce works of youthful, though steadily improving, writing,” the author, Berlin Fang, writes. “Ghostwriting also takes talent and effort.” Moreover, he argues, Han Han is not as prolific as some have claimed: “I am at least two or three times as prolific as Han while still maintaining a day job, writing columns for newspapers, raising two kids, doing household chores, translating novels and often serving as a volunteer.”
Seems like everyone has a split personality these days.