Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Yahoo moves for dismissal of dissidents' case

Posted by Richard Koman - August 28, 2007

By Richard Koman for SiliconValleyWatcher

Yahoo wants a federal court to dismiss Chinese dissident Shi Tao's complaint against the company for allegedly facilitating his arrest by Chinese authorities. Yahoo Monday filed a 51-page motion to dismiss, claiming that Shi's problem is with Chinese authorities and that the case has "no place in American courts." Shi, Wang Xiaoning and Wang's wife, Yu Ling, charged that Yahoo turned over to the Chinese government information about their online activities, which ultimately led to their arrest and sentencing to 10 years in prison. In the opening paragraph of Yahoo's motion, company lawyers said:

"This is a lawsuit by citizens of China imprisoned for using the Internet in China to express political views in violation of China law. It is a political case challenging the laws and actions of the Chinese government. It has no place in the American courts."
News.com reports on the circumstances of the arrests:
According to Monday's filing, Chinese journalist Shi, a reporter at Contemporary Business News in mainland China, was prosecuted after he e-mailed foreign reporters information issued by the Chinese government warning of possible trouble around the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Shi sent the document through an anonymous account, but the authorities tracked him down because Yahoo's Hong Kong subsidiary allegedly supplied an IP address connecting a PC to a message containing his information. The government considered the content of the e-mail a "state secret," according to the filing.

The filing expresses sympathy for Shi and Wang but disclaims any responsibility for their prosecution.

Yahoo deeply sympathizes with the plaintiffs and their families and does not condone the suppression of their rights and liberty by their government. But Yahoo has no control over the sovereign government of the People's Republic of China, the laws it passes, and the manner in which it enforces its laws. Neither (Yahoo company) can be held liable for the independent acts of the PRC just because a former Yahoo subsidiary in China obeyed a lawful government request for the collection of evidence relevant to a pending investigation.
At the Times, Miguel Helft had this quote from Morton Sklar of the World Organization for Human Rights USA, which filed the suit on behalf of the dissidents:
It is not the Chinese government that is the defendant here. It is Yahoo, for their part in this process. If not for Yahoo, there would have been no abuses. They gave the pieces of information that allowed China to take these actions.
Sklar suggests that Yahoo apply its claimed commitment to human rights in the context of whatever role the company will play in the Beijing Olympics.

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