Yahoo isn’t the only villain
The Internet giant is just one of many tech firms propping up China’s totalitarian ways. By Peter Navarro
Which company has committed the greater evil? Yahoo Inc. helped send a reporter to prison by revealing his identity to the Chinese government. Cisco Systems Inc. helps send thousands of Chinese dissidents to prison by selling sophisticated Internet surveillance technology to China.
If bad press is to be the judge, the “stool pigeon” Yahoo is clearly the bigger villain. In 2004, after the Chinese government ordered the country’s media not to report on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, journalist Shi Tao used his Yahoo e-mail account to forward a government memo to a pro-democracy group. When China’s Internet police — a force of 30,000 — uncovered this, it pressured Yahoo to reveal Shi’s identity. Yahoo caved quicker than you can say Vichy France, and Shi is doing 10 years in a Chinese slammer for one click of his subversive mouse.
For ratting out Shi, Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang has been dragged before Congress, called a “moral pygmy” and forced to issue an apology. In contrast, Cisco and Chief Executive John Chambers have received little public scrutiny for providing China’s cadres of Comrade Orwells with the Internet surveillance technology they need to cleanse the Net of impure democratic thoughts. Los Angeles Times November 8, 2007
US lawmakers take Yahoo to task
US Congressional Hearing Room
REP. TOM LANTOS, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: If you think our witnesses today are uncomfortable sitting in this climate controlled room and accounting for their company’s spineless and irresponsible actions, imagine how life is for Shi Tao, spending ten long years in a Chinese dungeon for exchanging information publicly—exactly what Yahoo! claims to support in places like China.
JERRY YANG, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, YAHOO INC: I want to take a moment to recognize the family of the dissidents, who sit behind me. And I want to say that we’re committed to do what we can to secure their freedom. And I want to personally apologize to them for what they and their family are going through.
MICHAEL CALLAHAN, GENERAL COUNSEL, YAHOO INC: And I also emphasized my understanding that failure by the Yahoo! China operation in Beijing to comply with these lawful orders from government authorities may have subjected local employees of that company to civil and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.
LANTOS: Why do you insist on repeating the phrase lawful orders? These were demands by a police state to make of an American company a co-conspirator in having a freedom-lobbying Chinese journalist put in prison.
CALLAHAN: And we sincerely regret the consequences, as you point out, of the Yahoo! China operation having complied with those orders.
We haven’t come here to throw out this problem and say, “Well, someone else has to deal with it, then.” We recognize that, as some of the industry’s leaders, we have an obligation and an opportunity to try to effect change here. Has the past been perfect? Obviously not, given the situation that we’ve talked about. But I would like to think that there is a real opportunity, with the collaboration that’s ongoing between the human rights groups and the leading companies, in partnership with Congress on the new bill, in partnership with the State Department, to try to make real progress on these issues.
YANG: I’m very open to understanding how we can be helpful.
REP. BRAD SHERMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I told you how you can be helpful. You can meet their humanitarian needs. Sir, give me a yes or no. Are you going to do it, or are you not going to do it?
YANG: I’m willing to consider it, Mr. Congressman.
SHERMAN: You’re willing to consider it. That’s a no by any other standard.