Saturday, February 11, 2006

Times of London says Yahoo disclosure cause China dissident's imprisonment

ORIGINAL URL:,,25689-2033331,00.html
PUBLISHED: The Times of London February 10, 2006

Dissident jailed 'after Yahoo handed evidence to police'

From Jane Macartney in Beijing

THE American internet company Yahoo! provided evidence to Chinese police that enabled them to imprison one of its users, according to allegations that came to light yesterday.

The disclosure marked the second time in months that the company had been accused of helping China to put someone in jail. Li Zhi, a civil servant, was imprisoned on charges of trying to subvert state power after he criticised corruption and tried to join the dissident China Democracy Party. The link between him and Yahoo! was hidden after he was sentenced to eight years in 2003. However, a copy of the appeal filed by his lawyer in 2004 ÿÿ posted on, the US-based Chinese-language news portal ÿÿ alleges that Yahoo! Hong Kong provided details of Mr Liÿÿs e-mail registration to the police.

Yahoo! said that it could not comment on an individual case. However, it said that it turned over to governments only legally required information. Mary Osako, at Yahoo! headquarters in California, said: ÿÿWe would not know whether a demand for information focused on murder, kidnapping or another crime.ÿÿ She added that Yahoo! regarded the internet as a positive force in China.

The journalist Shi Tao may not agree. He was jailed for ten years last year on charges of leaking state secrets after Yahoo! supplied Chinese police with his user identification. Julien Pain, an internet expert with the Paris-based Reporters without Borders, believes that the revelation that Yahoo! had co-operated in two cases could be the tip of an iceberg. He said: ÿÿThe problem is how many (cases) do we not know about? Probably dozens, given how hard it is to get information from China. Yahoo! should release a list of people they helped to jail.ÿÿ

M Pain urged internet companies to reduce their operations in China. He alleged: ÿÿYahoo! certainly knew that it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals.ÿÿ

The companies find themselves on tricky ground in China. It is the worldÿÿs second-largest internet market, but critics say that the companies put profits before principles. Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft say that they are obeying local laws and argue that their presence will expose Chinese to more information and greater openness. Microsoft closed down the site of a popular blogger late last year at Beijingÿÿs request. Zhao Jing, writing under the pen name An Ti, had broken a story in his blog about a strike by journalists at a Beijing newspaper. Within weeks Google said that it was entering the Chinese market with a censored search product, tweaked to fit government specifications to filter out such words as Tibetan independence and Tiananmen Square. Google, unlike Microsoft and Yahoo!, has stopped short of hosting its mail servers in China.


The first first full internet connection in China was recorded on May 17, 1994

More than 111 million Chinese use the internet, second only to the US

16.9 per cent of urban Chinese use the internet

There are an estimated 13.3 million blogs in China. Three years ago there were none

Last year Reporters without Borders ranked China 159 out of 167 countries in press freedom


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