9 February, 2006

yahoo!: how many more?

This is the reason Google will not offer a localized version of gmail.:


Another cyberdissident imprisoned because of data provided by Yahoo

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the US firm Yahoo ! for handing over data on one of its users in China which enabled the authorities there to send him to prison for eight years, the second such case that has come to light in recent months.

It called on Yahoo ! to supply a list of all cyberdissidents it has provided data on, beginning with 81 people in China whose release the worldwide press freedom organization is currently campaigning for.

It said it had discovered that Yahoo ! customer and cyberdissident Li Zhi had been given his eight-year prison sentence in December 2003 based on electronic records provided by Yahoo. “How many more cases are we going to find ?” it asked.

“We were sure the case of Shi Tao, who was jailed for 10 years last April on the basis of Yahoo-supplied data, was not the only one. Now we know Yahoo works regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police.

“The firm says it simply responds to requests from the authorities for data without ever knowing what it will be used for. But this argument no longer holds water. Yahoo certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals. The company must answer for what it is doing at the US congressional hearing set for February 15.”

The foreign-based news website Boxun.com posted on February 5 the plea of cyberdissident Li’s lawyer, Zhang Sizhi, at an appeal court hearing in February 2004. Zhang said his client, who used the e-mail address and user-name lizhi34100, had been sentenced on the basis of data handed over by Yahoo ! Hong Kong in a report dated August 1, 2003.

Li, a 35-year-old ex-civil servant from the southwestern province of Dazhou, had been sentenced on December 10, 2003 to eight years in prison for “inciting subversion.” He had been arrested the previous August after he criticized in online discussion groups and articles the corruption of local officials.

Local sources said Yahoo! Hong Kong’s cooperation with the police was also mentioned in the court’s verdict on Li.

The US house of Representatives Committee on International Relations will hold a hearing on February 15 about the ethical responsibilities of Internet firms. Yahoo! has been invited to attend.

49 cyberdissidents and 32 journalists are in prison in China for posting on the Internet articles and criticism of the authorities.

For the Shi Tao case : www.rsf.org/article.php3 ?id_article=14884

‘How many others have there been?’ is a valid question. 

"How many more will there be?" is a better one.

(UPDATE: How many more? Technically zero.

Shortly after that question was written, AsiaPundit was reminded of his comment at China Herald on how many Yahoo staffers were relieved that the company "gave the whole China shop to Jack Ma" and won’t have to deal with something like the Shi Tao incident again.
That’s true, China’s Alibaba now controls Yahoo China, so there will be no direct control of activities in China by Yahoo itself (aside from a 40 percent shareholding in Alibaba and a seat on Alibaba’s four-man board held by Yahoo chief and co-founder Jerry Yang.)
Yahoo was today directing all media querries toward Alibaba. Alibaba responded, properly , that the company could not comment on a case from 2003 as Alibaba did not take over Yahoo China until 2005. So, the Chinese company said ‘talk to Yahoo Inc about anything Yahoo China did before October.’
That would put into doubt RSF’s statement that: "Now we know Yahoo works regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police." First of all it needs to be put into past tense.
Sure, Yahoo may have worked regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police, it may have just handed over whatever information Chinese authorities asked for at any time without question, or it may have only responded to formal legal warrants and requests without having a clue about the purpose of the warrants.
Also, assuming that either Chinese police or US Internet companies in China are ‘efficient’ is a rather bold idea. Yahoo’s China business was generally seen as a failure, which was part or the reason they ditched it. And Chinese police have a reputation for bumbling and brutishness. Efficiency really should not be expected from either of those two parties.
That said, as Yahoo hasn’t really explained the process that led to the arrests, RSF’s guess is as good as any. Unless Yahoo cares to fully detail what happened in both cases - and give some indication on how many incidents of this have not yet been uncovered - speculation must be welcome.)

(Addendum: While AsiaPundit is nitpicking the RSF’s statement, where the hell is  the southwestern province of Dazhou?)

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by @ 10:18 am. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Web/Tech, Censorship

4 Responses to “yahoo!: how many more?”

  1. Hiren Shah Says:

    Yahoo should tread with caution in places like China where innocent people suffer for no fault of theirs. China wants to have the cake and eat it too. Trying to stop the internet is trying to stop the wind. I read a post which stated that wordpress has been banned in China.

  2. lonniebhodge Says:

    Maybe it was the far, far western province of Dachau…

  3. myrick Says:

    Possibly, although we’re guessing they mean a city in Sichuan. (memo to self: stop mocking the RSF, you may need them to get you out of jail later.)

  4. myrick Says:

    And, yes, Wordpress is blocked.

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