United States / China - Yahoo! To testify before Congress: A chance for transparency and accountability on business practices in China



    MONTREAL, Nov. 5 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders asked Yahoo!
today to take advantage of the November 6 Congress hearing to set the record
straight on the company's collaboration with the Chinese authorities. Congress
is investigating sworn statements Yahoo! made during a February 2006 Congress
hearing regarding its role in cyberdissident 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 organization said. "The time for lamentations is over. The company has
now to accept the consequences of its mistakes and to act accordingly. At
least four cyberdissidents were thrown in jail because of data provided by
Yahoo! to the Chinese police. We would be particularly interested in the
disclosure of the number of information requests with which Yahoo! complied,
whether they concern any of the 32 jailed journalists or of the 50 people
currently behind bars for expressing themselves freely on the Internet, and
how such requests are being processed within the company. This hearing is a
chance for Yahoo! not only to show more transparency, but also to discuss the
practical steps the company intends to take to prevent its future involvement
in dissidents' arrests."
    Announcing the investigation on August 3, House of Representatives
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos said it would be shameful if it
were 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. We expect to learn the truth, and to
hold the company to account."
    Yahoo! executive vice president and general counsel Michael Callahan told
the US House Foreign Affairs Committee in February, 2006, "We had no
information about the nature of the investigation." He was referring to the
one targeting Shi Tao, which the Chinese authorities began in 2004. But in
fact, China's Department of State Security sent Yahoo! a document dated April
22, 2004, explaining that the authorities wanted information about an Internet
user suspected of "illegally providing state secrets to foreign institutions."
    Michael Callahan apologised on November 1st for failing to tell US
lawmakers that Yahoo knew more about the case than he initially acknowledged
in testimony last year. "Months after I testified before two House
subcommittees on Yahoo's approach to business in China, I realized Yahoo had
additional information about a 2004 order issued by the Chinese government
seeking information about a Yahoo China user," Mr Callahan said in a
statement. "I neglected to directly alert the committee of this new
information and that oversight led to a misunderstanding that I deeply regret
and have apologised to the committee for creating," Mr Callahan said.
According to the Financial Times, he is expected to testify that a lawyer for
Yahoo in Asia failed to brief him on the order because the lawyer did not
believe it was significant.
    Yahoo! Hong Kong's cooperation with the police is mentioned in the
Chinese court's verdict against these four cyberdissidents:

    
    - Shi Tao (see above);
    - Wang Xiaoning, 55: sentenced to ten years in prison in September 2003
      for posting "subversive" articles online;
    - Li Zhi, 35, sentenced on December 2003 to eight years in prison for
      "inciting subversion." He had been arrested the previous August after
      criticizing, in online discussion groups and articles, the corruptive
      practices of local officials;
    - Pro-democracy activist Jiang Lijun, freed on November 5 after
      completing a four-year sentence. Convicted of "inciting the subversion
      of state authorities" following his arrest in 2002, police considered
      him to be the head of a small group of cyberdissidents, and had
      arrested him several times before for posting political articles
      online.
    




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Directrice générale, Reporters
Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514) 521-7771,
rsfcanada@rsf.org

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