Chinese Writers Seek $17 Million Censorship Suit Default

A group of Chinese residents of New York who sued the People’s Republic of China last year claiming the government censored their writings asked a federal court in New York for a $17.4 million default judgment because the country didn’t answer the complaint.

The writers sued China and Baidu.com Inc., (BIDU) the owner of China’s most popular Internet search engine, in May 2011, seeking $16 million in damages. They claimed that their pro- democracy writings about China were censored or banned from the search engine.

“The execution of the request would infringe the sovereignty or security of the People’s Republic of China,” the Ministry of Justice said in a letter dated Jan. 29, referring to a request to serve legal papers on the government or Baidu.com.

Stephen N. Preziosi, the lawyer representing the writers, said he filed the request to enter the default judgment today after learning that the ministry wouldn’t serve the complaint. The next step, he said, is to file a formal motion with the court seeking the default judgment against the Internet company and the People’s Republic.

The ministry is “making this blanket argument that Baidu.com can enjoy the protection of sovereignty,” Preziosi said in an interview.

“Baidu.com has not responded and they are very much aware this lawsuit is pending,” he said. “Baidu.com is an arm of the People’s Republic of China.”

The case is Zhang v. Baidu.com, 11-03388, U.S. District Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at ‘ mhytha @bloomberg.net.

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