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Monday, February 25, 2008

Yahoo Pushes for Dissident Release

Yahoo originally helped the Chinese government to jail dissidents, but after receiving public blame they now show regrets and push for release of dissidents. In their blog they write:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Beijing next week to discuss a wide range of political issues with senior Chinese officials. With deep appreciation for the power of diplomacy and government-to-government engagement on human rights issues, we believe we have a window of opportunity for freedom. Yesterday, [Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang] sent a letter to Secretary Rice urging the State Department’s continued assistance in securing the release of Shi Tao, Wang Xiaoning, and other political dissidents imprisoned for expressing their views online.

[Jerry Yang] pressed for continued government assistance in advocating for the release of dissidents. Over the past two years, legal and policy executives at Yahoo! have met with [non-government organizations] to discuss strategies for securing the release of political dissidents. We’ve also met with senior Chinese officials and asked directly for the release of Mr. Shi and Mr. Wang. We understand our responsibilities, and we take them with the utmost seriousness. We also recognize the practical limits of corporate diplomacy, especially next to the powerful advocacy tools available to governments. We believe governments have the most leverage to influence the decision-making of other governments.

The stakes – personal freedom – are high for those unfairly imprisoned and for their families. This is one reason we’ve established a Human Rights Fund to provide humanitarian and legal support for these dissidents, as well as for their families. The Fund will be administered by noted dissident Harry Wu – who spent nineteen years in a Chinese labor camp – through his Laogai Research Foundation.

Wikipedia has more on the Shi Tao case, writing:

On April 20, 2004, the Chinese government released the Number 11 document “A notice concerning the work for maintaining stability” (关于当前稳定工作的通知). In the document, it warned journalists that overseas pro-democracy Chinese dissidents may come back to mainland China during the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 on June 4th, which would affect the politico-social order’s stability. It asked all news media to not report anything regarding the so-called “June 4th event”, Falun Gong or people calling for politico-social change. Shi used his private Yahoo! email account and sent a brief of the document to an overseas web site called Asia Democracy Foundation.

When the Chinese government found out, it demanded the sender’s personal information from Yahoo!’s Hong Kong office. Yahoo! turned the information over without asking what it was for. Shortly thereafter, Shi Tao was detained on November 24, 2004. The Chinese authorities confiscated his computer and documents without showing any proper permit or document, and warned his family members not to talk about it with others. He was formally arrested on December 14.

His lawyer, Guo Guoting (郭国汀), famous for taking human rights cases, stated that the search and seizure and subsequent arrest were illegal. As a result, his license to practice law was suspended for one year by Shanghai’s Department of Law. He was later put under house arrest, and one of his co-workers had to take over the case.

In 2005, Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years.


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