Sydney private school mothers sue each other for defamation over WeChat outbursts

A spat between two Knox Grammar mothers on WeChat has reached the New South Wales Supreme Court.
BEN RUSHTON/FAIRFAX MEDIA

A spat between two Knox Grammar mothers on WeChat has reached the New South Wales Supreme Court.

Two mothers who bonded over their Chinese backgrounds and sons at Sydney's Knox Grammar are now suing each other for defamation following a string of instant messages which one woman says made her out to be a "savage person" and the other says painted her as disloyal.

Ava Wei Wu, who wrote a reference for Michelle Li Chen's son to attend the northern Sydney boys' school in 2014, allegedly used a WeChat forum for non-English speaking Knox parents last year to denounce her erstwhile friend as a "green tea prostitute" who thought she was high class because she sent her children to a private school and bought fake handbags, according to Chen's statement of claim.

Chen allegedly responded by claiming to a group of more than 1000 WeChat friends that Wu was a "barking dog" who had "amnesia" when it came to paying her debts, nearly ran down a policeman who stopped her for a roadside breath test and was deluded in thinking that she was helping Chen to make friends since she didn't understand English, according to Wu's statement of claim.

"After all, such a person who was a mistress and destroyed the families of others is bad in essence," Chen allegedly wrote.

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The spat has now reached the NSW Supreme Court, where it is listed for a five-day hearing in July involving three barristers after the women failed to resolve their differences through mediation.

Each woman has doubled down on her WeChat attacks by raising a defence of truth.
REUTERS

Each woman has doubled down on her WeChat attacks by raising a defence of truth.

Each woman denies the other's allegations, the truth of which remain to be determined by the court.

CLAIMS AND COUNTERCLAIMS

According to court documents filed in the dispute, the friendship had begun in 2010, but it split wide open one evening in March 2016 after Wu posted a series of messages about her former friend on a Knox WeChat forum, and Chen hit back in a separate forum.

Wu lodged a statement of claim in the Supreme Court in March, saying that Chen's posts contained the defamatory imputations that she was a "savage person likely to cause harm to others" and an "unethical person" who had destroyed another person's family and tried to avoid paying her bills.

Wu claims these imputations were contained in translated screenshots of conversations filed with the Supreme Court in which Chen allegedly informed her followers that she had "kicked out a barking dog from the friendship circle".

"Ava, self-proclaimed chair of ESL, brutally attacked and abused me in our ... group and her friendship circle," Chen allegedly said in her post.

Wu alleges that Chen defamed her by claiming in the forum that Wu told Chen's daughter she should retaliate when hit, and nearly killed a policeman by accelerating when he stopped her for a roadside breath test. It was only his quick reactions that saved him from sustaining an injury more serious than a skin bruise, Chen allegedly said.

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"This is the first time in my life I have met this type of shrew," Chen allegedly said.

"I feel very sorry to have met someone shitty like you. It feels like stepping on [dog poo emoticon]."

Wu's barrister told the Supreme Court in May that Chen's posts contained defamatory imputations that Wu "taught children to act with violence" and "attempted to commit the act of murder".

Chen has responded by lodging her own claim for defamation, arguing in court documents that Wu fired the first shots by posting a series of messages about her over several hours earlier that evening.

"You really think you are a high class lady by sending your children to a private school and buying a few fake handbags?" Wu had allegedly posted.

"In front of people you compliment them but behind people's backs you curse them and allege they belong to the Falun Gong ... You are two-faced and ghost like ... And don't forget the reason why your son got into Knox is because I noticed the vacancy and told you and acted as your referee."

According to Chen's statement of claim, Wu's posts defamed her by conveying the imputations that she was disloyal to her friends, dishonest in pretending to be friends with people she later betrayed, had no conscience and was willing to harm her friends to get ahead in business.

Each woman has doubled down on her WeChat attacks by raising a defence of truth.

Wu claimed in her defence that Chen had gossiped about her with the mother of one of her daughter's friends at Pymble Ladies College, and this is what she was referring to in her statement that Chen was two-faced.

Chen allegedly told the PLC mother that Wu was a bankrupt, had stolen her current husband from a previous marriage and was poor and unpopular.

Chen said in her defence that she would argue it was true that Wu was an unethical person who began her relationship with her husband when he was married to another woman and did not pay her bills.

Wu's husband had told a story at a dinner party about how she had attempted to run over a policeman who stopped her for a breath test and then bought him off to avoid charges, Chen's defence filed with the Supreme Court alleged. Chen also claims Wu told her she planned to pay students A$600 to accept responsibility if she committed any driving offences.

Chen's defence also said she did not approve when Wu, who was the convener of a group for non-English speaking Knox parents, asked people to contribute A$30 towards food and flowers for a function held for them at her home.

Chen herself had paid only A$11 because Wu had never paid back A$19 she borrowed to buy her son a school tie, her defence said.

Fairfax Media does not suggest that either woman is in fact guilty of any of the allegations that have been made against them. The women's claims remain to be determined by the Court.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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