April 12, 2006 4:20 PM PDT

Yahoo pressured over China cooperation

Yahoo's long-running defense of its Chinese operations, which have been criticized for close cooperation with the country's police agencies, took an unusual twist this week in a confrontation at the company's headquarters.

Julien Pain of Reporters Without Borders, a free speech advocacy organization, stopped by Yahoo's San Jose, Calif., headquarters on Monday accompanied by a film crew from ABC World News Tonight. In a moment reminiscent of Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," Pain asked to meet with company executives--but Yahoo sent out its security guards instead.

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Video: Fighting Yahoo's China policies
Lawyer, family of dissidents speak out.

Eventually, after tense negotiations accompanied by threats of having him arrested by police for trespassing, Yahoo relented and arranged a meeting with two unnamed executives. "They were just trying to handle some PR crisis," Pain told CNET News.com afterward. "It's a PR crisis? No, it's a human rights crisis."

Yahoo has come under fire, including at a congressional hearing in February, for choosing to locate servers used by Yahoo Mail inside China instead of in a jurisdiction that is more protective of free speech and privacy rights, which Google and Microsoft already do. (A Yahoo representative did not return multiple phone calls on Wednesday.)

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders revealed in September that information provided by Yahoo was used to convict Shi Tao, a 37-year-old journalist, of leaking "state secrets." Then, in February, the group reported that Yahoo turned over information that led to the arrest of Li Zhi, a 35-year-old ex-civil servant from the southwestern province of Dazhou, and an eight-year prison sentence in 2003.

In a short video that the advocacy group provided to CNET News.com that was filmed in Beijing last month, Li's brother pleaded with Yahoo to change its policy, saying: "His health wasn't great before he was imprisoned...Since he's been in jail, he's caught pleurisy (inflamed lung membranes), because of doing hard labor. Now his health is real bad."

In a statement last month, Yahoo defended its actions, saying: "In this specific case the Chinese government ordered Yahoo China to provide user information and Yahoo China complied with local laws."

A second video features Mo Shaoping, China's leading legal advocate for political dissidents, who says that many other cases of Yahoo's collaboration with the Chinese police have gone unreported. "It has done the same to many others," Mo said. "I have several names but I can't reveal them because these cases have not yet been brought to trial."

During February's hearing before a U.S. House of Representatives panel, some politicians compared Yahoo's collaboration with China's ruling Communist Party to companies that helped the Nazi regime exterminate the Jews. A proposed bill in the House would probably force Yahoo and other companies to move servers out of China.

Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan testified in February that Yahoo was "unaware of the particular facts" about the case, such as Shi's identity and occupation, until news reports surfaced. Also, the company is an investor in and does not have day-to-day control of Yahoo China, which is run by Alibaba.com, he said.

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7 comments

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CNET is so anti-Yahoo!
So Yahoo china cooperates with Chinese officials...Big Deal..

The case in point argument you present about Yahoo being evil they turned over information to China with little fight.

China arrests Yahoo user based on contents of data.

Given that scenario I can only draw the conclusion that the based on Chinese law the man was _GUILTY_ and Yahoo releasing his information to china was apparently the correct decision.

What is CNET doing for the free speech of the Chinese people that makes them so high and mighty??
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OMG
Too bad Yahoo didn't expand its services into Afganistan during the Taliban reign. Can I assume your reply would then read as follows?

...."Taliban beheads Yahoo user based on contents of data. Given that scenario I can only draw the conclusion that based on Taliban law the man was _GUILTY_, can be LEGALLY beheaded, and Yahoo releasing his information to the Taliban was apparently the correct decision"....

If that's really a logical (if extreme) extension of Yahoo's defense, I would greatly prefer that they relocate all of their servers (as well as corporate HQ) outside the U.S.
Posted by dosware (13 comments )
Link Flag
Thank You Chairman Mao
The human organs that you requested to be harvested for you are ready.
Posted by maxwis (141 comments )
Link Flag
hypocrites
i dont see anything wrong with Yahoo complying with Chinese laws, no matter how much we dont like them as americans. The point is, yahoo has to comply with the laws of that particular country no matter what.

Dont be so hypocritical, we wouldnt like it if a chinese company came over here and refused to comply with US laws because china doesnt have it. if u think about it that way. what right we have to judge what happens in other countries.

Additionally... what about the United States forcing newspaper journalists into giving up their sources in those government secret leaks... IE, imprisonment until they gave up the names. As i see it. the USA did the same exact thing!!.. so instead of judging other countries and their business, fix ours... atleast we "supposedly" have the power to do so.. instead of putting blame into yahoo to change the world to the way americans want it
Posted by Thinkforachange (15 comments )
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There are limitations you know
If the Nazi regime were still around and wanted Yahoo's help on sorting and searching jewish people I assume you would not be happy with Yahoo, right? The point is that US based companies should not allowed to support Human Rights Abuse anywhere else in the world. If we give US corporations free tickets to flirt the law in other countries where do we draw the line? Slave trade of children? What if that's legal. Beheading people was legal under Taliban rule. Can I send a Manager from Yahoo America I dislike and have him legally beheaded in Afganistan by bribing an official?
Posted by UntoldDreams (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
China Will Put Yahoo Out Of Business Anyway
Eventually China Yahoo, like other American companies in China, will be put out of business, so this will be a moot point. The Chinese government will rip off Yahoo's intellectual property (do you not think China has hordes of spies working at Yahoo), and then they will fund some local shell company to replicate what Yahoo does and charge for less for it. They throw in a few new features that Yahoo doesn't have, and it's goodbye Yahoo.
Posted by maxwis (141 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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