Friday, April 20, 2007

Suing Yahoo

Not that I would ever dream of dismissing the dangers to free speech (and already existing controls) that we face in this part of the world, having written many thousands of words about the latest piece of legislation on racism and xenophobia to come from Brussels. But other people in other parts of the world are facing far worse problems and it is our duty to highlight them and to show support for the very brave people who face imprisonment and worse for doing what we take for granted.

Our readers will recall the scandalous development whereby Yahoo HK, a wholly owned Yahoo subsidiary based in Hong Kong helped the Chinese police to identify several bloggers and posters on the internet, who were voicing criticism of the government and the system.

As Jim Cullinan, a spokesman for Yahoo puts it:
Companies doing business in China are forced to comply with Chinese law.
Obeying the law is one thing, one might say, and needless officiousness that results in the imprisonment of bloggers and journalists is something else.

According to this morning’s International Herald Tribune, one of those imprisoned together with his wife who is in California, has decided to sue Yahoo.
A Chinese political prisoner and his wife have sued Yahoo in a U.S. court, accusing the company of abetting acts of torture by helping Chinese authorities identify political dissidents who were later beaten and imprisoned.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act, may be the first of its kind against an Internet company for its activities in China.

Wang Xiaoning, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence in China, according to the lawsuit; his wife, Yu Ling; and other unidentified plaintiffs seek damages and an injunction barring Yahoo from identifying dissidents to Chinese authorities.
We shall watch this potentially important precedent with great interest.


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