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 (www.peacehall.com/cgi-bin/news/gb_display/print_version.cgi?art=/gb/china/2006/02&link=200602051139.shtml). Zhang said his client, who used the e-mail address email@example.com 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.