By Benjamin Kang Lim
Yahoo Inc. has been cited in a Chinese court decision to jail a
dissident Internet writer for 10 years for subversion in 2003 -- the
fourth such case to surface implicating the U.S. Internet giant.
Wang Xiaoning, born in 1951, was convicted of the charge of
"incitement to subvert state power" after e-mailing electronic
journals advocating a multi-party system, the New York-based watchdog
Human Rights in China (HRIC) said in a statement.
Wang's journals, called Democratic Reform Free Forum and Current
Political Commentary, included essays written under his real and pen
names and by others advocating democratic reform.
Evidence cited in the verdict included "information provided by Yahoo
Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. stating that Wang's "aaabbbccc" Yahoo Group
was set up using the mainland China-based e-mail address
email@example.com.," HRIC said.
Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. also confirmed that the e-mail address
firstname.lastname@example.org, through which Wang sent messages to his Yahoo
Group, was a China-based account, it said.
But the verdict did not indicate whether Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong)
Ltd. or Yahoo China -- which is now operated by mainland China-based
Alibaba.com -- provided specific information regarding Wang's
identity, the watchdog said. Pauline Wong, a spokeswoman for Yahoo
Hong Kong, said she did not have any details about Wang's case.
"The Chinese government has never approached Yahoo Hong Kong for any
information, and Yahoo Hong Kong has never given any information to
the Chinese government," Wong said.
She could not speak for Yahoo China, but said Yahoo companies
worldwide are required to comply with local law.
"Wherever law enforcement bodies request information, we would not
know the nature of the investigation," she said.
But she added: "We definitely condemn punishment of any activity
internationally recognised as freedom of expression, whether that
punishment takes place in China or anywhere else in the world."
The verdict stated that following a search of Wang's home on September
1, 2002, police found the offending essays in personal computer files
and records of his e-mail traffic, it said.
The verdict also noted that in 2001, administrators of Wang's Yahoo
Group noticed the political content of Wang's writings and did not
allow him to continue distribution, HRIC said. He then began
distributing his electronic journals by e-mail to individual e-mail
addresses, HRIC said.
The prosecution's evidence also included statements by two witnesses
who had communicated with Wang by e-mail after reading his essays in
e-mail or on Web sites, HRIC said.
The case is the latest in a string of examples that highlight the
friction between profits and principles for Internet companies doing
business in China, the world's number-two Internet market.
Web search giant Google Inc. has come under fire for saying it would
block politically sensitive terms on its new China site, bowing to
conditions set by Beijing.
In December, Microsoft Corp. shut down a blog at MSN Spaces belonging
to outspoken blogger Michael Anti under Chinese government orders.
(Additional reporting by John Ruwitch in Hong Kong)
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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