A Reporters Without Borders team stationed itself with a video player outside Yahoo!’s California headquarters on 7 April 2006 and stopped employees as they left the building, offering to show them videos filmed in China of people criticising Yahoo!’s cooperation with the Chinese police.
The videos, which can be downloaded from the Reporters Without Borders website, consist of interviews with the brother of Li Zhi, a Chinese pro-democracy activist who was arrested on information provided by Yahoo!, and the lawyer of Shi Tao, a journalist arrested in a similar fashion.
The Reporters Without Borders staff also tried to meet Yahoo! executives, who initially refused and even threatened to call the police, but finally agreed to a meeting today.
Reporters Without Borders wants Yahoo! to stop cooperating with the Chinese authorities in the arrests of activists and journalists, whether through its branch in China or a local partner. It also wants Yahoo! to stop operating an e-mail service on Chinese territory and for Yahoo!’s servers in China to be brought back to the United States. And it wants any Chinese police request for information about a Yahoo! client to have to be submitted to a US court.
In the first video, Li’s brother criticises Yahoo!’s role in Li’s conviction. “Li is in prison because of you,” he says. “He already had hepatitis and now he has pleurisy because the poor working conditions in prison (...) Our family is broken (...) I am convinced he is innocent (...) All this happened because of your company (...) and I hope that in future you will heed your conscience before doing this kind of thing.”
In the second video, Shi’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, says Yahoo! is implicated in many similar cases: “I have names, but I cannot reveal them yet (...) I think Yahoo! could refuse to collaborate if it recognises that there is a contradiction between Chinese law and international human rights standards.” In February, Reporters Without Borders sent Yahoo! a list of the 80 cyber-dissidents and journalists in prison in China, asking it to say where or not it was involved in their arrests. Yahoo! did not reply.
The two videos were televised on 12 May on ABC programme World News Tonight together with footage of the Reporters Without Borders action outside Yahoo! headquarters (see the video). They will also appear in a report on the Franco-German TV station Arte on the evening of 19 April and in documentary to be screened on the Dutch TV station VPRO on 7 May.
All this comes 10 days before a visit to the United States by Chinese President Hu Jintao. Reporters Without Borders hopes the US authorities will raise the issue of online free expression in their meetings with Hu, and that the visit will be accompanied by the release of Li and Shi and other detained journalists and cyber-dissidents.
Video of Li Zhi’s brother
Windows Media (.wmv)
Video of Li Zhi’s brother
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