Skip to main content

Reporters Without Borders has asked Yahoo! to take advantage
of the 6 November 2007 Congress hearing to set the record straight on the
company's collaboration with the Chinese authorities. Congress is
investigating sworn statements Yahoo! made during a February 2006 Congress
hearing regarding its role in cyberdissident Shi Tao's arrest and
conviction on a charge of "illegally divulging state secrets abroad," for
which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"Yahoo!'s confused statements must finally be clarified," the press freedom
organization said. "The time for lamentations is over. The company has now
to accept the consequences of its mistakes and to act accordingly. At least
four cyberdissidents were thrown in jail because of data provided by Yahoo!
to the Chinese police. We would be particularly interested in the
disclosure of the number of information requests with which Yahoo! complied
and whether they concern any of the 32 jailed journalists or the 50 people
currently behind bars for expressing themselves freely on the Internet, and
how such requests are being processed within the company. This hearing is a
chance for Yahoo! not only to show more transparency, but also to discuss
the practical steps the company intends to take to prevent its future
involvement in dissidents' arrests."

Announcing the investigation on 3 August, the House of Representatives
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos said it would be shameful if
it were confirmed that Yahoo! had known why the Chinese police requested
the information that enabled them to arrest Shi. "Covering up such a
despicable practice when Congress seeks an explanation is a serious
offense," Lantos said, adding that, "for a firm engaged in the information
industry, Yahoo! sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for. We expect to
learn the truth and to hold the company to account."

Yahoo! executive vice president and general counsel Michael Callahan told
the US House Foreign Affairs Committee in February 2006: "we had no
information about the nature of the investigation."  He was referring to
the one targeting Shi Tao, which the Chinese authorities began in 2004. But
in fact, China's Department of State Security sent Yahoo! a document dated
22 April 2004, explaining that the authorities wanted information about an
Internet user suspected of "illegally providing state secrets to foreign

Michael Callahan apologised on 1 November for failing to tell US lawmakers
that Yahoo! knew more about the case than he initially acknowledged in a
testimony last year. "Months after I testified before two House
subcommittees on Yahoo!'s approach to business in China, I realized Yahoo!
had additional information about a 2004 order issued by the Chinese
government seeking information about a Yahoo! China user," Mr Callahan said
in a statement. "I neglected to directly alert the committee of this new
information and that oversight led to a misunderstanding that I deeply
regret and have apologised to the committee for creating," Mr Callahan
said. According to the "Financial Times", he is expected to testify that a
lawyer for Yahoo! in Asia failed to brief him on the order because the
lawyer did not believe it was significant.

Yahoo! Hong Kong's cooperation with the police is mentioned in the Chinese
court's verdict against these four cyberdissidents:

- Shi Tao (see above)
- Wang Xiaoning, 55: sentenced to ten years in prison in September 2003 for
posting "subversive" articles online
- Li Zhi, 35, sentenced in December 2003 to eight years in prison for
"inciting subversion." He had been arrested the previous August after
criticizing, in online discussion groups and articles, the corruptive
practices of local officials
- Pro-democracy activist, Jiang Lijun, freed on 5 November after completing
a four-year sentence. He was convicted of "inciting the subversion of state
authorities" following his arrest in 2002, police considered him to be the
head of a small group of cyberdissidents, and had previously arrested him
several times for posting political articles online.

Prachatai English's Logo

Prachatai English is an independent, non-profit news outlet committed to covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite pressure from the authorities. Your support will ensure that we stay a professional media source and be able to meet the challenges and deliver in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”