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China 6 August 2007

US congress to probe Yahoo!’s role in cyber-dissident Shi Tao’s arrest

Reporters Without Borders hails a US congressional decision to investigate Yahoo!’s role in cyber-dissident Shi Tao’s arrest and conviction on a charge of “illegally divulging state secrets abroad,” for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“Yahoo!’s confused statements must finally be clarified,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is time the US corporation recognised its mistakes and accepted the consequences.”

Announcing the investigation on 3 August, House of Representatives foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Lantos said it would be shameful it was confirmed that Yahoo! had known why the Chinese police requested the information that enabled them to arrest Shi.

“Covering up such a despicable practice when congress seeks an explanation is a serious offense,” Lantos said, adding that, “for a firm engaged in the information industry, Yahoo! sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for.”

Yahoo! executive Michael Callahan told a US congressional committee in February 2006 that his company had been told nothing about the content of the investigation into Shi Tao which the Chinese authorities began in 2004. But in fact, China’s Department of State Security sent Yahoo! a document dated 22 April 2004 explaining that the authorities wanted information about an Internet user suspected of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign institutions.”

PDF - 135.5 kb
Beijing State Security Bureau - Notice of Evidence Collection

On 29 May of this year, Shi’s family joined the lawsuit filed in California against Yahoo! by the family of Wang Xiaoning, a dissident who has been in prison since 2003 and who, like Shi, was convicted on the basis of information which Yahoo! provided to the Chinese police. At the time, Yahoo! defended its cooperation with the police by claiming that it had not been told anything about the nature of the investigation and was just complying with Chinese law.

Over 16 years ago, Reporters without Borders created its "Sponsorship Programme" and called upon the international media to select and support an imprisoned journalist. Currently, Shi Tao is sponsored by Miljörapporten (Sweden), Télé Bruxelles (Belgium)




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