Skip to main content

2. Would I be liable for defamation if I published defamatory words or allegations about a limited company? How about publishing defamatory words or allegations against the government?

A limited company or a corporation (which is incorporated under the Companies Ordinance) is generally considered as a separate legal entity, and is sometimes treated as an "artificial person". A limited company can either sue, or be sued by the others. It can also sign contracts or own property under its name.


If defamatory statements have harmed the reputation of a limited company, the company can sue for defamation. However, both the government and government organizations do not have the right to sue for defamation. (However, you are warned that if the defamatory statements refer to a particular government official , that official may personally sue for defamation.)


On the other hand, the situation regarding a public body (like a university) may be different. There has been a local case ( Hong Kong Polytechnic University & Ors. v Next Magazine Publishi n g Ltd. & Anor.) in which the Polytechnic University sued a magazine for defamation. The article in question was about the qualifications of the academic staff of the Polytechnic University and their terms of appointment. The magazine argued that if the court allowed the University to sue on this basis, it would be contrary to the right to freedom of the press as guaranteed under the Bill of Rights Ordinance. This rationale was accepted by the Court of First Instance of the High Court. The Court ordered the Polytechnic University to cease suing the magazine. On appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the reputation of the Polytechnic University required protection just like a limited company, and it held that the Polytechnic University had the right to bring legal action against the magazine.

Last revision date: