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Chinese Dissident Blasts Yahoo

David Utter
Expert Author
Published: 2005-10-24

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Like other Internet players, Yahoo insists it has to play by the local rules in China, and thinks its place there can ultimately benefit the Chinese people.

Everything started when a Chinese journalist named Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sharing a 'state secret': a warning from the Chinese government not to make a lot of noise about the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Shi forwarded the message via his Yahoo email account, huoyan1989@yahoo.com.cn, to at least one other site for dissidents, the New York Times reported. Later, it came to light that Yahoo Holdings of Hong Kong provided authorities with the information to connect the address to Shi.

After Reporters Without Borders made public that finding, discovered in verdict documents, criticism of Yahoo came from all over the world. While many US tech companies have made accommodations to maintain their presence in the world's second biggest Internet market, some feel that this action may have finally crossed a line.

A senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Max Boot's essay in the Los Angeles Times was especially damning:

"What if local law required Yahoo to cooperate in strictly separating the races? Or the rounding up and extermination of a certain race? Or the stoning of homosexuals?"

The fiercest criticism came from Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident in Beijing. The Times excerpted parts of a translated letter appearing on Cicus.org, where Liu took Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang to task:

"I must tell you that my indignation at and contempt for you and your company are not a bit less than my indignation at and contempt for the Communist regime...Profit makes you dull in morality," Liu's lengthy and scathing message continued. "Did it ever occur to you that it is a shame for you to be considered a traitor to your customer Shi Tao?"

Yahoo thinks the path to enlightenment comes from staying the course instead of pulling out, the Times reported:

"I've always taken the attitude that you're better off playing by the government's rules and getting there," the Yahoo chairman, Terry Semel, told attendees of the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco this month. "Part of our role in any form of media is to get whatever we can into those countries and to show and to enable people, slowly, to see the Western way and what our culture is like, and to learn."

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

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