Group Says Yahoo's Help Led to Another Dissident's Arrest
WASHINGTON -- A media rights group has identified a third dissident that the Chinese government arrested based on information seemingly supplied by a Yahoo subsidiary.
On Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders announced that it has obtained a copy of the verdict against cyber-dissident Jiang Lijun, sentenced in November 2003 to four years in prison for his online pro-democracy articles. The verdict notes that Jiang's e-mail account, provided to Chinese authorities by Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong), was part of the evidence used to try him for the crime of subversion.
Jiang used the Internet and other methods to promote a "so-called Western-style democracy" and to advocate the overthrow of the Chinese government, the verdict said. The government also accused Jiang of planning to make bomb threats and attempting to start a new political party, according to the verdict. He denied the charges against him.
"Little by little we are piecing together the evidence for what we have long suspected, that Yahoo is implicated in the arrest of most of the people that we have been defending," Reporters Without Borders said in its statement.
The group called on Yahoo to pull its e-mail servers out of China. "This way, any request from the Chinese would have to be supervised by...American justice," said Julien Pain, head of the Internet freedom desk at Reporters Without Borders. "They shouldn't comply with all Chinese demands. It's possible to negotiate with the Chinese authorities. The Chinese wouldn't ban such an important company."
Yahoo is unaware of this latest case, according to Yahoo spokesperson Mary Osako. It is "unclear" how the Chinese government obtained Jiang's information, she said.
Yahoo condemns punishment of free expression in any country and recognizes the need to take local conditions into account when deciding whether to do business outside the United States, she said. "We also think there's a vital role for government-to-government discussion of the large issue involved," she added.
Chinese police apparently believed that Jiang was the leader of a small group of cyber-dissidents that included Internet user Liu Di, who was imprisoned between November 2002 and November 2003. Reporters Without Borders has also blamed Yahoo for helping to implicate Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced in April 2005 to 10 years in prison for divulging state secrets abroad.
In a fourth case, Li Zhi, a Chinese Internet user, was sentenced in August 2003 to eight years in jail for his involvement in the China Democratic Party; Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) again provided evidence in connection with the charges, though it's unclear how much that evidence contributed to Li's sentence.