TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Yahoo Defends Itself Over China Accusations

Yahoo Defends Itself Over China Accusations

John Ruwitch (
Thu, 8 Sep 2005 21:00:33 -0500

By John Ruwitch

Internet giant Yahoo Inc. defended itself on Thursday against
accusations that it supplied data to Chinese authorities which led to
the imprisonment of a journalist, saying it has to abide local laws.

Press watchdogs accused Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. of providing
details about e-mail communications that helped identify, and were
used as evidence against, Shi Tao, who was sentenced in April to 10
years in prison for leaking state secrets abroad.

"Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local
country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of
the country in which they are based," Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako
said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters by the firm's Hong Kong arm.

Yahoo declined to confirm or deny that it furnished the Chinese
government with the information.

The French group Reporters Without Borders said Shi, a former news
editor for the Contemporary Business News in Hunan province, was
convicted for e-mailing foreign-based Web sites the text of an
internal message to journalists about dangers around the 15th
anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 2004.

China broadly defines as a state secret anything that affects the
security and interests of the state, but the limits are vague and can
include political news. Rights groups say the laws are arbitrary
enough to be manipulated for political purposes.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in February
that China had the most journalists in prison, 42, of any country for
the sixth year in a row.

Among those in detention are New York Times researcher Zhao Yan,
arrested on charges of leaking state secrets to foreigners, and Hong
Kong-based reporter Ching Cheong of the Singapore Straits Times, who
China suspects of spying for Taiwan.

Shi's conviction sent shockwaves through the Chinese journalist
community because many felt his sentence was excessive and might have
been heavy to serve as a warning.

The Committee to Protect Journalists decried what it called China's
"chokehold" on the Internet.

"We categorically condemn the outrageous prosecution of Shi Tao,"
Executive Director Ann Cooper said.

"We call on the Chinese government and Yahoo to provide a full
explanation of the circumstances that led the company to provide
account holder information,"

In 2002, Yahoo was among the many firms to voluntarily sign the
"Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry,"
seen by critics as a promise of self-censorship.

Reporters Without Borders asked how far Yahoo would go.

"Does the fact that this corporation operates under Chinese law free
it from all ethical considerations? How far will it go to please
Beijing?" it said in a statement.

"It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government's abuses
and it is quite another thing to collaborate."

(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in San Francisco)

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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