Zhou Hongyi, the former general manager of Yahoo China, has sued the company in a Beijing court, accusing it of insulting and libelling him.

He left Yahoo China in 2005, after Yahoo transferred its operations to Chinese internet company Alibaba. He has since started his own internet search company, called Qihoo.

Zhou sued after Alibaba published an article on its website that accused him of "pressuring and intimidating" Yahoo China staff to leave the company, Qihoo said in a statement released yesterday. "Yahoo China's remarks had a defamatory nature, which shocked insiders," it said.

In response, Zhou blamed the staff departures on Yahoo China, saying the company had made "strategic errors", such as closing down its web portal business. Now that this and other businesses were being reinstated by Yahoo China, the company "will be back on course within the year," Qihoo said.

The statement did not describe the redress that Zhou is seeking from the case, which is being handled by the Beijing Number Two Intermediate Court.

Alibaba declined to comment on the case. "We have not yet received the complaint from the court and once we receive it we will respond appropriately," the company said.