The information on these pages about Chai Ling (a key character in the film, The Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Jenzabar, the software company she runs with her husband, Robert Maginn, contains excerpts from and links to articles in The Boston Globe, Forbes, Business Week, and other publications, and is intended to provide additional readings about Chai Ling, one of the most well-known and controversial figures from the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. These web pages are the sole responsibility of the Long Bow Group, and are in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Jenzabar, Inc.
About Chai Ling and Jenzabar, Inc. | News Accounts
Massachusetts Court Dismisses Jenzabar's Lawsuit and Affirms Free Speech Rights
After the 1989 crackdown, student leader Chai Ling fled China; she presently resides in the United States, where she is Founder, President, and COO of Jenzabar Inc., a software company. In 2007, Chai Ling and Jenzabar tried to censor this website by filing a lawsuit against the Long Bow Group, claiming defamation and trademark infringement. Specifically, their complaint cited the posting of articles about Chai Ling and Jenzabar on this website and the use of the term "Jenzabar" in the keywords or metatags used to index and describe the contents of certain pages of the site. In August 2008, the court threw out the defamation claims, while allowing Jenzabar to proceed with the trademark claims, even though "Jenzabar seems unlikely to prevail" (see PDF of the judge's memorandum of decision). In December 2010, the court dismissed the trademark claims as well, finding that Jenzabar had "failed to allege any facts or evidence in the summary judgment record to support a trademark claim" (see PDF of the judge's decision). Jenzabar appealed this decision, but it was upheld by the Massachusetts Appeals Court. (For more details on the Appeals Court decision, see Public Citizen's blog, Jenzabar's Trademark Appeal is Denied.) Jenzabar then applied to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for further appellate review of this case; its application was denied.
As Public Citizen's Paul Alan Levy writes in Long Bow's response to Jenzabar's appeal, "The superior court properly recognized that truthful use of plaintiff's name to denote a web page about plaintiff did not violate the trademark laws, and that plaintiff had no evidence that even a single Internet user experienced confusion, or was likely to suffer confusion, about whether the web page was affiliated with it. Because the suit's purpose was to suppress the truth, not avoid confusion, the court granted summary judgment." The entire brief is available here. (Additional documents, including Jenzabar's appeal, may be found on this page.) See also counsel Paul Levy's comments about the appeal in his blog post, "Jenzabar Persists in Trademark Bullying."
In an Amicus Curiae brief filed in support of Long Bow, the Digital Media Law Project (DMLP), a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, stated that "Communicative uses of trademark are protected speech, and they are threatened by the misuse of trademark law to silence free expression." [p. 10] The entire brief is available here. The following are additional excerpts from the DMLP's Amicus Curiae brief:
In a free and open society, every individual, corporation, and government entity is and must be subject to comment and criticism for their public actions. The First Amendment and Article 16 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights ensure that open communication about civic affairs is protected by guaranteeing the right to speak on matters of public interest. An essential element of this right is the ability to identify people and entities involved in such matters by name. Without that right, freedom of expression would be meaningless; audiences would be unable to identify speech that is of interest or understand what the speaker is saying.
This is exactly what Jenzabar seeks to achieve in this case: to force the removal of labels and tags that may enable the public to find speech by Long Bow about Jenzabar, so that any criticism by Long Bow of Jenzabar is lost in digital limbo. Having failed before the trial court in its direct challenge by means of a defamation claim to Long Bow's criticism, Jenzabar now attempts to use trademark law to block Long Bow's efforts to make its content locatable online. But, allowing a corporation to banish criticism to the hinterlands of the Internet because its name happens to be a trademark would grant that corporation -- without any conceivable or rational policy justification -- an exclusive ability to censor speech to which no one else in our society is entitled and which runs contrary to long-standing constitutional speech doctrines.
Allowing trademark law to be applied in such a manner would have a catastrophic effect on public speech -- particularly online speech -- about corporate affairs, at a time when corporate activity has never been more newsworthy and the Internet is the primary method by which citizens communicate with one another… [emphasis added, pp. 6-8]
The Boston PBS station, WGBH/FRONTLINE, has also noted:FRONTLINE believes that Jenzabar's trademark claim poses first amendment issues and is a potential threat to all newsgathering, reportorial and academic sites. The metataging of a company's name is necessarily an editorial decision and that decision will be chilled if Jenzabar were to prevail in court.In From Democracy Activist to Censor? (The Guardian, Nov. 17. 2009), Jeremy Goldkorn writes:Chai and her American husband and business partner Robert A Maginn Jr are CEO and president respectively of Jenzabar, a company founded in 1998 that sells educational software and technology services. They sue the filmmakers for defamation and trademark infringements. The defamation case hinges on the filmmakers' website linking to mainstream media reports about Chai and Jenzabar, and it was thrown out of court.In A Victory for Free Speech (The Boston Globe, December 19, 2010), Yvonne Abraham writes:
The trademark infringement case ... claims that Long Bow's use of the word "Jenzabar" as a keyword or meta tag on its website will confuse and divert potential customers of Jenzabar. One quick look at the websites of Long Bow and Jenzabar will tell you that this is patently ridiculous... In a country that calls itself free, money should not be able to buy silence or the alteration of historical records. Intellectual property laws should not be used to suppress free speech.With her husband, Chai now runs a Boston software company called Jenzabar Inc. And for three years, she has been trying to use the courts to go after two local filmmakers because she doesn't like some material cited on their website... The suit is a transparent attempt to shut down negative publicity. Jenzabar hasn't disputed the facts in the stories. It's merely trying to make it more difficult to find them.For additional independent news coverage of Jenzabar's lawsuit, see the Boston Globe, June 7, 2009: Beijing Lesson Unlearned, the Times of London, May 4, 2009: Tiananmen activist Chai Ling sues makers of film about 1989 protest, and the New Yorker, May 7, 2009: The American Dream: The Lawsuit. A more recent article appeared in the South China Morning Post on June 9, 2010: June 4 Leader Drops Film Lawsuit. (This headline, however, is misleading; not only did Chai Ling and Jenzabar never drop the lawsuit, they appealed the judge's summary judgment decision that dismissed the suit.) For another perspective, one that we found particularly interesting, see the readers' comments section of the Boston Globe article, A Victory for Free Speech, in which "TianjinMan," a demonstrator at Tiananmen in 1989, writes:
It's no fun to have people write negative things about you, and to have those things live forever online. That's a downside of the First Amendment. But free expression is vital to democracy, and it shouldn't be vulnerable to endless legal maneuverings.I'm a Chinese who demonstrated at Tiananmen. Even then Chai Ling was acting like little dictator. Only Chai Ling can say what is truth. Facts don't matter. If you argue with her you must be communist. You can say Chai Ling was a kid then and didn't know enough but she has lived in America for 20 years now. No excuses. Chai Ling married a rich man and now she uses money to get her way. Chai Ling has learned little about democracy values and free speech.During the course of the lawsuit, Long Bow also posted an online appeal asking for moral support in opposition to "a corporation using its money and its power to stifle debate and suppress the historical record." Several hundred people signed on, including many Chinese students who had taken part in the 1989 protests, as well as a number of Chinese activists, some of whom have been imprisoned by the Chinese government -- among them writers Moli and Wang Lixiong, and artist Ai Weiwei. Students, professors and scholars from over two hundred fifty universities around the world added their support.
Chai Ling says that Tiananmen film gave her a bad translation. She only says this to Westerners. We Chinese don't need translation! We hear those words she said. She hates that film because it shows many smarter student leaders who disagree with her like Liu Xiaobo. It is sad that Chai Ling stays a bully.
Comments to the Boston Globe, Dec. 19, 2010
Additional links about the lawsuit are available here. More information about Chai Ling, her company, and her public image, is presented below.
Chai Ling founded Jenzabar, a software company, in 1998. She is President and COO of the company; her husband, Robert Maginn, is the CEO. Jenzabar has received considerable publicity in part because of Chai Ling's role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Jenzabar itself, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, "plays up the past celebrity of its founder, Chai Ling. ...Company press releases, which invariably note that Ms. Chai was 'twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize,' breathlessly describe Jenzabar as a tool to 'create another kind of revolution,' fueled by communications technology." (Sept. 3, 1999, "Colleges Get Free Web Pages, but With a Catch: Advertising")
Chai Ling has also actively cultivated her public image and openly expressed her desire to use her connection to Tiananmen Square to promote her current activities. As stated in the South China Morning Post ("Seizing the Day All for Herself", written on the 10th anniversary of the June 4 massacre):
Ms Chai's publicist has been reminding the world that Ms Chai's job prior to being smuggled out of China to the United States was "leading thousands of students against a communist government more ruthless than Microsoft".
She also suggested that June 4 would be a good opportunity to write about Ms Chai's Internet start-up which runs a site called jenzabar.com.
"Ling is a dynamic personality who has found many similarities between running a revolution and an Internet start up," journalists have been told. "Ling used the techniques and charisma of a true revolutionary to impress the CEOs of Reebok, WebTV/Microsoft and Bain to back Jenzabar."
As a public persona, Chai Ling has attracted attention from multiple media sources. A number of stories published about Jenzabar begin with the saga of the student leader from China who became a successful entrepreneur in America. For example, a Business Week (June 23, 1999) headline reads, "Chai Ling: From Tiananmen Leader to Netrepreneur." Computerworld (May 6, 1999) leads with: "Tiananmen activist turns software entrepreneur." Or as Forbes (May 10, 1999) puts it, "From Starting a Revolution to Starting a Company."
Other articles from the international press present different perspectives on Chai Ling and her relationship with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. See, for example, American Dream (The Boston Globe, Aug. 8, 2003, byline: Steve Bailey), which concludes:After Tiananmen, Chai detractors said her hero's image did not square with her hardball tactics. Now her critics are saying much the same again, this time about her corporate life. Meanwhile, Chai continues to sell her story of the Tiananmen heroine-turned-American-entrepreneur. "Today, I am living the American dream," Chai told Parade magazine in June.Daniel Lyons, in Forbes.com (Great Story, Bad Business, Forbes.com, Feb. 17, 2003, byline: Daniel Lyons), notes:
With Ling Chai, distinguishing the dream from the reality has always been the hardest part of all.
Chai Ling would like total control over her biography. In her version, she risks her life leading student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, escapes China stowed in a crate and is twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Then she moves to America and marries a millionaire venture capitalist who bankrolls her promising internet startup. Alas, the market crashes before the company can go public, and it is unfairly besieged by lawsuits from former executives....
"You're not going to write about that, are you?" Chai says, when asked about the suits. "Do you really have to mention those things?" Chai's seeming naiveté is a little out of character. She has frequently scored points in the press by recalling her glory days as onetime 'commander-in-chief' of rebel students in Beijing.
Lyons may have been referring to an article written about Jenzabar by Chai Ling herself, which is headlined: "Revolution Has Its Price: In Tiananmen Square, she was a student leader who stood up to tanks. In the U.S., she became a software executive who had to deal with venture capitalists. Guess which one was the tougher opponent." In the article, Chai Ling wrote:For me, the longest hour and the longest night I ever lived was in Tiananmen Square, in 1989, when the student movement tried to demand democracy of our nation's unyielding governors. My role was to lead a hunger strike for seven days and nights. We tried to be peaceful. We tried to be rational. But the end result was tanks, bloodshed and the massacre of innocent people.
Here, at least, power in Washington can change hands without bloodshed, according to the expressed will of the people. And economic revolution, even a minor one such as that fostered by Jenzabar, occurs without bloodshed. Even in the dot com bust, no one had to die.
But the creation of a company is no less stressful than running a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.
... But I am happy, because I am the leader of another student movement. I have been given the chance, by fate, to help the youth of America prepare for the next century.
... As we found in China, even the most determined authority can't put technology back in the bottle.
Which makes its dispersion the greatest revolution any student, faculty member or administrator who cares about freedom of thought can be involved in.
In other contexts, Chai Ling has appeared more reluctant to discuss her role in the 1989 events. In "Anatomy of a Massacre" (Village Voice, June 4, 1996), Richard Woodward made multiple attempts to interview Chai Ling for a cover story about The Gate of Heavenly Peace and her role in the student protest movement. "At first she was 'too busy.' When I offered to call at another time, she said with fatigue, 'It's over. I don't want to get involved.'"Similarly, in his book Bad Elements: Chinese Rebels from Los Angeles to Beijing, Ian Buruma describes a meeting he had with Chai Ling in 1999:
We met for a cappuccino in a nice outdoor café in Cambridge, Massachusetts... Chai handed me a folder with promotional material. It contained references to her career at the Harvard Business School and her "leadership skills" on Tiananmen Square. She spoke to me about her plans to liberate China via the Internet. She joked that she wanted to be rich enough to buy China, so she could "fix it." But although she was not shy to use her celebrity to promote her business, she was oddly reluctant to discuss the past. When I asked her to go over some of the events in 1989, she asked why I wanted to know "about all that old stuff, all that garbage." What was needed was to "find some space and build a beautiful new life." What was wanted was "closure" for Tiananmen. I felt the chilly presence of Henry Ford's ghost hovering over our cappuccinos in that nice outdoor café. From being an icon of history, Chai had moved into a world where all history is bunk.
[Ian Buruma, Bad Elements: Chinese Rebels from Los Angeles to Beijing (New York: Random House, 2001), pp. 9-10.]
Chai Ling Sued for Religious Discrimination
In addition to her work with Jenzabar, Chai Ling also founded two charitable organizations, the Jenzabar Foundation and All Girls Allowed. According to a report in The Boston Globe, Chai has been accused of religious discrimination; in a lawsuit filed in June 2012, Chai is alleged to have fired an employee "for being insufficiently religious and for declining to engage in 'weekly corporate worship.'"The employee, Jing Zhang, is a Chinese activist who once spent five years in a Chinese prison for promoting freedom and democracy, according to the suit... Attached to the lawsuit is a March e-mail that purportedly issued Zhang an ultimatum: She could either "seek the will of God in her life on a daily basis through study of God's word and through prayer" or start looking for a new job.
That document asked Zhang to agree to statements, including, "I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and apart from him nobody can receive eternal life and enter the kingdom of God."...
"When she demurred, she was fired," said Daniel L. Alterman, one of Zhang's attorneys.
"Whatever the problems that exist in China, in America, we have something called the First Amendment that respects freedom of religion," he said. "And an employer can't force an employee to practice the same religion that they practice."
But in a statement from All Girls Allowed, spokeswoman Kat Lewis defended the right of the charitable group to emphasize faith and said Zhang was aware of the "requirements to succeed" when she took the job in 2010... Whether or not All Girls Allowed might qualify for a religious exemption, [Kevin Mintzer, another attorney for Zhang,] said, Zhang was technically not even an employee of that organization. "She was a Jenzabar Inc. employee," Mintzer said. "They gave that to her in a contract two times. Every pay stub she ever got was from Jenzabar."...
While Chai and All Girls Allowed are grieved that Zhang has pursued a lawsuit, Lewis said, "They have forgiven Ms. Zhang and her attorneys and have been praying for God to bless them."
"Chinese Rights Activist Sued for Bias," The Boston Globe, July 1, 2012
Chai Ling and Other Jenzabar Officers Sued for "Improper Corporate Spending"
In August 2012, The Boston Globe reported on yet another lawsuit, this one focused on Jenzabar CEO Robert Maginn, and filed by Jenzabar's former chief financial officer, Alan MacDonald. The lawsuit contends that[Jenzabar] squandered money on political interests and illegally compensated employees for their campaign contributions to Republican politicians...The article also notes that "Maginn and his wife, Ling Chai, who founded Jenzabar, have faced numerous lawsuits and waged several countersuits in recent years. In June, Chai faced another suit from a former employee of one of Jenzabar's related charitable organizations, All Girls Allowed, alleging religious discrimination and that she was fired for refusing to pray at work. Chai, who was a leader of the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989, has also sued documentary filmmakers whose film on that conflict portrayed her in a controversial light." See this link for earlier reporting on Jenzabar from sources such as The Boston Globe and Forbes.
In addition, [MacDonald] contends Jenzabar has not operated in the interests of its shareholders and instead has used corporate money "to pursue purely personal ends, such as excessive compensation, political advancement and reputational protection, and have mined Jenzabar's corporate coffers for personal reasons."
"Mass. GOP Chair's Firm Spent on Politics, Lawsuit Contends," The Boston Globe, August 19, 2012
Because of her status as a public figure, future media coverage will continue to throw light on Chai Ling for those who are interested in following her story.