One dollar per person in China – that's the sum a primary school teacher and a beautician are claiming in a $1.3bn (£660m) lawsuit against the US broadcaster CNN for insulting the Chinese people. The legal action, filed in New York, is the latest incident in an escalating row over Western media coverage of the clampdown on recent unrest in Tibet and disruptions to the Beijing Olympic torch relay abroad.
Liang Shubing, a beauty therapist, and Li Lilan, a teacher, allege that remarks by the CNN commentator Jack Cafferty "intentionally caused mental harm" to them personally as well as offending all Chinese. "The $1.3bn averages out to $1 per Chinese person, so it isn't much," a lawyer handling the case told Hong Kong's Ta Kung Pao newspaper.
Mr Cafferty made his remarks earlier this month, saying that the US continued to import from China "their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food". He added: "They're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they have been for the last 50 years."
CNN insisted that Mr Cafferty was expressing an opinion about the Beijing government. The country's tightly controlled media has carried extensive reports accusing Western news outlets of biased reporting of the Tibetan riots in March. The government has given the lawsuit tacit approval. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, described it as "spontaneous activity by Chinese civilians" and said the government was waiting for a response to its own call for an apology. In Beijing, 14 lawyers are already suing CNN, saying Mr Cafferty's comments "violated the dignity and reputation of the Chinese people". Their demand is a more modest $200.
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