RealTime IT News

Yahoo Named in China Dissident Verdict

Yahoo is again in the China spotlight.

A verdict in a Chinese court case indicates Yahoo helped police identify the e-mail account of a dissident writer who was later sent to prison, according to Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. According to the organization, this is the third such incident involving Yahoo.

"Little by little, we are piecing together the evidence for what we have long suspected, that Yahoo is implicated in the arrest of most people that we have been defending," according to a statement from Reporters Without Borders.

The verdict, which was translated into English by the Dui Hua Foundation and obtained by Reporters Without Borders, indicates Hong Kong-based Yahoo Holdings helped identify an e-mail account containing pro-democracy statements made by Jiang Lijung, leader of a group of Internet dissidents.

Outlining "physical and written evidence," the verdict described a "declaration" found in the draft folder of an e-mail account jointly owned by Lijung and fellow dissident Li Yibling.

In the verdict, Chinese authorities said Lijung referred to China's hard-line regime as "autocratic" and wrote in favor of "western-style democracy."

Supporting China's allegation Lijung sought to use violence to impose democracy, the verdict pointed to a plan to disrupt the 16th Communist Party Convention by phoning in a bomb threat.

While Reporters Without Borders said the verdict didn't specify if Yahoo directly supplied the declaration, "the e-mail service is marketed as Yahoo," according to a statement. The group said Yibling may have provided China authorities with the e-mail account password, charging the dissident was suspected of being a police informer.

The activists, who want Yahoo to stop cooperating with Chinese authorities and move their email servers out of China, said they met with unnamed Yahoo executives earlier this month.

The meeting "did not produce concrete results," according to a statement. The group did not identify the Yahoo executives.

Yahoo is unaware of the case, spokesperson Mary Osako told internetnews.com. "As Reporters Without Borders admits in their press release, it is unclear as to how information on Jiang Lijun was accessed.

"Let us make clear that we condemn punishment of any activity internationally recognized as free expression, whether that punishment takes place in China or anywhere else in the world," said Osako.

In February, when Reporters Without Borders said Yahoo knowingly provided details about another Internet dissident, the company said it was unaware of the details but would look into the report. In that case, Li Zhi was given an eight-year sentence for "inciting subversion" after criticizing local officials online.

In 2005, Yahoo was criticized after it became known the Internet giant provided information used by China to convict reporter Shi Tao of revealing state secrets.

Yahoo has said it believes "government-to-government dialogue" will best influence China's censorship policies.

"We also firmly believe the continued presence and engagement of companies like Yahoo is a powerful force in promoting openness and reform."

The new charges come as China's President Hu Jintao meets with President Bush in Washington.

"We hope this Internet giant will not, as it has each time it has been challenged previously, hide behind its local partner, Alibaba, to justify its behavior," according to the group's statement.

Competitor Google last week fended off charges it was not standing up to China's censors. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told reporters in Beijing the Internet giant must obey local laws.