Pioneering Aviatrix Julie Wang Prevails as Beijing Appellate Court Enters Final Judgment Dismissing Ninety-Nines China Governor “Saki” Jingxian Chen’s Appeal

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Beijing Appellate Panel Unanimously Affirms Dismissal of Ninety-Nines China Governor’s Defamation Complaint, Lets Stand Criticism of Chen’s 2016 Failed Record Attempt. Qu Haibo and Zhang Ding of the Beijing Weiheng Law Firm represented Capt. Julie Wang on Appeal.

Capt. Julie Wang upon her return to Addison, TX on September 19, 2016, her circumnavigation flight complete.

Chen Jingxian believed that the starting and ending time of Wang Zheng’s flight was from August 17 to September 19. Wang Zheng agreed. . . . [T]he trial court, based on the evidence in this case, found that the facts are true, and this court confirms them.

Ninety-Nines China Section Governor Jingxian “Saki” Chen has lost the war of words she initiated in 2016 when, despite her failed attempt to become the first Chinese woman to circumnavigate the globe in an airplane, she nevertheless continued to propagandize that she was the “first” to have done so, according to a Christmas day ruling of the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court. Chen’s defeat comes as the Beijing appellate court affirmed, in its entirety, the dismissal of the Ninety-Nines China Governor’s defamation lawsuit against global circumnavigation pilot Julie Wang. See Chen Jingxian, Plaintiff-Appellant v. Wang Zheng, Defendant-Appellee, Beijing First Intermediate People's Court, Case No. (2019) J. 01.M. Z. No.11115.

The three-judge appellate panel rendered a unanimous verdict affirming the dismissal of Chen’s claims and refusing to grant Chen relief from the trial court judgment. The appellate court let stand each of the statements the Ninety Nines China Governor had challenged as infringing her reputation, even refusing to censure statements that Chen’s 2016 flight around the world was “fake.”

The central allegations of Chen’s complaint were that by criticizing Chen’s 2016 around-the-world flight chaperoned by an experienced American male flight instructor as a “fake” record flight on the China social media platform Sina Weibo, and by directing that pre-litigation cease and desist letters be sent to a handful of media outlets and sponsors, record-holding pilot Julie Wang had defamed Chen and damaged her reputation. The complaint also contained more than a dozen lesser alleged transgressions against Chen’s reputation that were heard during the trial.

In rejecting Chen’s claim that her reputation had been damaged, the court found that the challenged statements were factual or based in fact and within the bounds of professional criticism. The Court found, for example, that Chen had not flown the entire circumnavigation personally as the rules required, that by her own admission a male pilot she had arranged to accompany her had landed the plane when landing conditions were beyond her capability and that there was evidence that Chen had broken Federal Aviation Regulations during her journey. The court also confirmed that Chen admitted that Julie Wang’s claimed starting and ending dates for her own circumnavigation flight, August 17 and September 19, 2016, respectively, are correct, in effect admitting that Wang was “first” in time to complete a global circumnavigation. The Court rejected Chen’s “new” arguments, one of which was that Wang’s flight was “suspected of fraud” which the Court dismissed as without factual support.

Finally, the court confirmed the trial court’s finding that it was netizens’ negative reaction to Chen’s publicity that had destroyed her own reputation on the social media platform. The court found that Chen held herself out as a public figure on social media, claiming competence for the roles of lawyer, columnist, translator, cartoonist, etc., “enjoying more public attention and related interests, so she should give some tolerance to the supervision and evaluation from others, with the legal standard appropriately lower than for ordinary people.”

The Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court ruling affirming the dismissal of Ninety-Nines China Section Governor Chen Jingxian’s complaint against Julie Wang is a final judgment, conclusively determining the litigation between the two women in China.

Julie Wang, an airline captain who, in 2016, made international headlines with a solo global circumnavigation flight mostly over open ocean, is the first Asian woman to fly an airplane around the world, the first Chinese person to fly around the world solo and the first Chinese woman to fly around the world.

Capt. Wang was represented on the appeal and at trial by Qu Haibo and Zhang Ding of the Beijing Weiheng Law Firm.

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James Frechter
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