In a precedent-setting suit against Yahoo, a Chinese political prisoner and his wife are accusing the Internet company of assisting Chinese authorities identify political dissidents who were later tortured and jailed, reports the New York Times.
The defendants, Wang Xiaoning, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for distributing articles on Democratic reform, and his wife, Yu Ling - along with other defendants - are attempting to seek an injunction barring Yahoo from identifying dissidents to Chinese authorities.
"I hope to be able to have Yahoo promise that in the future they will stop this kind of wrongdoing," said Ms. Yu, speaking through an interpreter in a telephone interview from San Francisco.
Other Internet companies, including Cisco Systems, Google and Microsoft, have been criticized for collaborating with the Chinese government to censor information on the Internet.
"Companies doing business in China are forced to comply with Chinese law," said Jim Cullinan, a Yahoo spokesman. When government officials present the company with a lawful request for information about a Yahoo user, he said, "Yahoo China will not know whether the demand for information is for a legitimate criminal investigation or is going to be used to prosecute political dissidents."
Wang says that he posted on a Yahoo group several journal articles calling for democratic reform and a multiparty system in China. His suit contends that Yahoo HK 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 Sept. 1, 2002, Wang was arrested by Chinese authorities, according to the suit, and was later kicked and beaten and detained until September 2003, when he was sentenced to 10 years.