January 30, 2006 5:20 PM PST

Tech firms skip D.C.-China shindig

Several technology companies may skip a Congressional meeting on human rights, China and the Internet.

With less than two days left before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus' event, not one of the four companies--Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Cisco--has agreed to send a representative, according to the caucus.

"We're definitely not going to see somebody from Cisco and Microsoft," caucus spokeswoman Lynne Weil said Monday. "We're obviously hopeful, but with less than 48 hours to go before the event, it's hard to imagine why we wouldn't have heard back."

The event comes a few days after Google opened a China-based censored version of its search engine. Google received reactions ranging from strident criticism to begrudging acceptance that censorship is the price of doing business with the Chinese Communist Party. According to the caucus' announcement, "instead of promoting freedom of speech and democracy, some U.S. companies have been charged with aiding--or at least complying with--Chinese Internet censorship."

Cisco said it couldn't send an executive for scheduling reasons but will send someone to a related Feb. 15 hearing. Yahoo and Google also said they plan to send representatives at that time. Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Because Wednesday's meeting is an informal event organized by a caucus, the companies cannot be compelled to testify. But the organizers of the Feb. 15 hearing under the auspices of the House International Relations Committee do have the authority to send subpoenas and could force the companies to send representatives.

"We do have subpoena power," said Brad Dayspring, a subcommittee spokesman. "There has been no decision made whether to use that or not."

The subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, raised eyebrows last week with his pointed attack on Google. He said in a statement that "Many Chinese have suffered imprisonment and torture in the service of truth--and now Google is collaborating with their persecutors."

A Cisco representative said his company is happy to educate members of Congress about the company's products and that routers and other products sold to China were off-the-shelf. "We have offered to have our Cisco D.C. representatives speak with any member of the caucus or their staffs on this issue outside of the meeting," the representative said. "As Rep. (Tom Lantos, D-Calif., co-chairman of the caucus) is the ranking member on the House International Relations full committee, we will hopefully be able to address any of his questions at the subcommittee hearing on the 15th."

CNET News.com's Elinor Mills contributed to this report.


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freedom/censorship needs to be a law
It is unfortunate that freedom and sensorship of freedom now has
to be a law that compels US companies to abide by basic American
principles when they do business. What does it mean to be an
American doing business in the world? Our soldiers and our media
personal are dying every day trying to bring freedom to people
while US companies only care about profits. A line has to be drawn
in the sand. Either you care about freedom at any cost or you need
to understand what it means to not have it by a law that can send
you to jail for denying freedom to others through censorship.
Posted by xmit30 (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Laugh at the Chinese communists
American companies will optimize around the Chinese foot-
shooting contest. Our government is chock full of
entrepreneurs, yet it stumbles every other step as every
American businessman knows. So! Let the Chinese government
be stupid, let them waste their time and resources hunting down
their own innocent people for non-crimes, and let them lag
behind as copycats. They will just never understand that
prosperous stability comes from adjusting to change, not
repressing it. The sad fact is that red China is happy to keep the
five Chinese Bill Gates-types that their huge population would
naturally produce all squatting in rice paddies for the rest of
their lives.
Posted by TogetherinParis (318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Typical boondoggle....
All the squirmy little politicians looking to get their name in the
news defending Rights, or Freedom, or whatever else they can
come up with. And they will pontificate from the podium for
three times longer than the time it takes to answer any set of
questions they might ask. And then they will all go home

"See what a good boy am I..."

And as usual, nothing will happen and it will all be forgotten in a
couple of weeks.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This issue is too important to be dismissed as mere politician posturing. American companies are doing China's censoring for China. That is outrageous, and they should be stopped from doing so. Period. Whether anything changes or not is up to us. Pressure your congressman to outlaw the censorship that Google and others are engaging in. Write a letter to your regional newspaper. Just don't get cynical about it.
Posted by samgmcf (22 comments )
Link Flag
Pigs playing cards with the farmer
You should read the last chapter of George Orwell's Animal Farm. Sums up the situation in China beautifully.

American companies cow-towing to the unelected
Chinese government makes a mockery of our claims of being a freedom loving nation.
Posted by oohkumar (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More political posturing from a useless congress
They don't want U.S. Companies to do business with these countries, but our government gets into bed with anyone whenever it's convenient. How ridiculous is that?
Posted by stmon99 (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It is sad ....
These are truly dark days of our history to see our young ones are sacrifying their lives in the name of democracy and human rights --- while the US Government and Companies for the sakes of a few dollars are collaborating with the most dictarship / police state in China. Shame, shame, shame......
Posted by Robert Wiseman (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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