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Prince Charles Sues British Newspaper

The Mail on Sunday published excerpts from his journal, copies of which he had sent to friends, about returning Hong Kong to China.

November 20, 2005|From Associated Press

LONDON — Prince Charles took legal action Friday against a British newspaper that published details from his private journal, which included his description of Chinese officials as "appalling old waxworks."

The prince's office said it had lodged papers at the High Court against Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Mail on Sunday, for breach of confidentiality and copyright.

The journal, titled "The Handover of Hong Kong, or The Great Chinese Takeaway," contained the heir to the British throne's views on the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong to the Chinese.

The prince's office, Clarence House, said Charles sent 11 copies of the journal to close friends, and the newspaper obtained a copy without his permission.

Sir Michael Peat, Charles's principal private secretary, said the newspaper had been warned repeatedly not to publish the extracts.

"We have made this clear to the Mail on Sunday on five occasions, both orally and in writing," he said. "Nevertheless, the Mail on Sunday proceeded to publish these extracts despite the knowledge that it was a breach of the Prince of Wales' copyright and confidence."

In a statement, the Mail on Sunday said the story did not involve any breach of copyright or confidentiality.

"This was not a private journal. It was widely distributed and viewed, as Clarence House confirmed to us, as a historic document intended for eventual publication," the newspaper said, adding that the story "raised important questions about Britain's relations with China."

The paper defended how it received the journal excerpts and suggested that Charles' office was trying to censor the media.

"The reporting of leaked documents is a classic journalistic enterprise. We are very surprised at the action taken by Clarence House which, if pursued, raises serious issues about the freedom of the press," it said.

According to the Mail on Sunday, Charles recounted in his journal a ceremony he attended with then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

"After my speech, the president detached himself from the group of appalling old waxworks who accompanied him and took his place at the lectern," Charles wrote. "He then gave a kind of 'propaganda' speech which was loudly cheered by the bused-in party faithful at the suitable moment in the text."

Clarence House said the Mail on Sunday had 14 days to respond to its complaint and said it hoped the matter could be settled out of court.

It is unusual for a British royal to take legal action against newspapers. In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II took action to prevent the Daily Mirror from publishing further revelations about life at Buckingham Palace after an undercover reporter secured work as a royal servant.

The newspaper agreed to a permanent injunction banning it from publishing further details and contributed toward the queen's legal costs.

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