April 19, 2007

Chinese Prisoner Sues Yahoo

Here is another strange story.According to NYtimes a Chinese political prisoner and his wife sued Yahoo in federal court Wednesday, accusing the company of abetting the commission of torture by helping Chinese authorities identify political dissidents who were later beaten and imprisoned.
The suit, filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act, is believed to be the first of its kind against an Internet company for its activities in China.
Wang Xiaoning, who according to the suit is serving a 10-year prison sentence in China; his wife, Yu Ling; and other unnamed defendants seek damages and an injunction barring Yahoo from identifying dissidents to Chinese authorities.
Yahoo said it had not yet seen the suit, filed in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California, and could not comment on the allegations.
Several American Internet companies, including Cisco Systems, Google and Microsoft, have come under fire, with some politicians and human rights groups accusing them of helping the government monitor and censor the Internet in China.But Yahoo has come under particularly sharp criticism. Human rights groups say that Yahoo has helped identify at least four people, including the journalist Shi Tao in 2004, who have since been imprisoned for voicing dissent in cyberspace.
According to the suit, Wang distributed online several journal articles calling for democratic reform and a multiparty system in China. He did so anonymously by posting the articles in a Yahoo Group in 2000 and 2001. The suit contends that Yahoo HK, a wholly owned Yahoo subsidiary based in Hong Kong, provided police with information linking Wang to the postings.
Cullinan of Yahoo disputed those claims. "Yahoo HK does not exchange info with Yahoo China or give information to mainland Chinese security forces," he said. Yahoo transferred its mainland China operations to Alibaba.com in 2005, and owns a minority stake in that company, which is based in China.On September 1, 2002, Wang was arrested by Chinese authorities, according to the suit, which says he was later kicked and beaten and was detained until September 2003, when he was sentenced to 10 years.The suit says that the Chinese court's judgment noted that Yahoo HK told investigators that the e-mail account used to disseminate the postings belonged to Wang.
The Alien Tort Claims Act, enacted in 1789, lets foreigners sue in American courts for fundamental violations of international law, like torture and genocide. It has been used in recent years to sue people who have violated basic human rights.