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Jailed Chinese Reporter Joins Yahoo! Suit 103

Posted by Zonk
from the keep-your-friends-close dept.
taoman1 writes "The Associated Press reports that Shi Tao, who was sentenced in 2005 to 10 years in prison, is now seeking compensation from Yahoo. He claims the Hong Kong and Chinese branches of the company provided information to the Chinese authorities that led to his arrest. 'Shi, a former writer for the financial publication Contemporary Business News, was jailed for allegedly providing state secrets to foreigners. His conviction stemmed from an e-mail he sent containing his notes on a government circular that spelled out restrictions on the media. Yahoo has acknowledged turning over data on Shi at the request of the Chinese government, saying company employees face civil and criminal sanctions if they ignore local laws. It denies Yahoo Hong Kong was involved.'"
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Jailed Chinese Reporter Joins Yahoo! Suit

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  • Not to suggest ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday June 11, 2007 @07:14AM (#19463611)
    ... that China is right in their efforts to censor the Internet or stifle free speech, but did Yahoo! actually do anything legally wrong?
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When confronted with a dilemma such as this I repeat to myself my mantra "WWSWD". What Would Sam Waterston Do? And if it's find someway, anyway, to hang me out to dry, I use a tyvek suit and polyurethane gloves.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Stormx2 (1003260)
      From the article:

      Shi's legal challenge, filed on May 29 in U.S. District Court, is part of a lawsuit filed earlier by the World Organization for Human Rights USA. The group is suing Yahoo Inc. and its subsidiary in Hong Kong. Also named is Alibaba.com Inc., a Yahoo partner that runs Yahoo China.

      He's suing in a U.S. court. I'm fairly sure there are laws in the U.S. prohibiting companies governed by U.S. law from giving away confidential data (in this case the email) to countries where it is likely to get

      • by Klanglor (704779)
        Depending on how secret the information was... In English law high treason was punishable by being hanged, drawn and quartered (men) or burnt at the stake (women)... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason [wikipedia.org]
        • Treason is aiding or abetting an enemy of the country. I don't see how handing over records that prove one's culpability to China amounts to this...unless you're REALLY scared fo the Yellow Menace.
          • by Adambomb (118938)
            Well, you could ALMOST call it that heh. I mean ones biggest creditor tends to be seen as an adversary, no?
          • by Klanglor (704779)
            i was more refering to shi. 'Shi, a former writer for the financial publication Contemporary Business News, was jailed for allegedly providing state secrets to foreigners' You know.. the saying about war was engaged in fist, then swords, then arrows, guns, then bombs, then nukes, and now MONEY! modern warfare. information can make a country collapse by kick starting a downward spiral in the stock markets.
      • by ClaraBow (212734)
        So he is suing in the U.S., but where was he when he sent the e-mail? And from a legal perspective, does physical location matter?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          So he is suing in the U.S., but where was he when he sent the e-mail? And from a legal perspective, does physical location matter?

          Yes. Location determines jurisdiction, even in cases involving the Internet, unfortunately, at least in the U.S. and probably in many other countries. Now, in the U.S., a court may choose to hear some cases that do not technically fall under its jurisdiction -- in which case it is up to one party of the suit to challenge the court's jurisdiction at the appellate level -- but, ge

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ubrgeek (679399)
      I suppose it depends on the language of the EULA (Which I have zero desire to read.)
    • Yahoo on the face of it did something that was morally wrong. Law is not something that is fixed and unchanging, it evolves, and the Internet being so new, the laws affecting it are likely to be inadequate and out of date.

      Laws arise because it becomes clear that something is morally or practically wrong. First, it is necessary to show that no existing law fits the bill; which means the courts have to investigate. Then legislators, under various forms of pressure, are supposed to legislate.

      "Not doing anythin

      • by Aladrin (926209)
        'Freedom' fanatics are putting spin on this. Yahoo didn't do something because it wasn't illegal and they wanted to do it. Yahoo turned over the information against their will because the law of that country required it. To do anything other than what they did -would- break a law and result in the consequences to individuals in the company, not just Yahoo itself.

        In other words, NOT to have turned over this information would have been at least as 'morally reprehensible' as turning it over because individu
        • by speaker of the truth (1112181) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:23AM (#19463921)

          NOT to have turned over this information would have been at least as 'morally reprehensible' as turning it over because individuals would suffer for it -and- they would be breaking the law.
          Bullshit. In no way is losing money is as morally reprehensible as being thrown in jail for trying to shed light on censorship. Nowhere near even close. And that's all that would happen to Yahoo, it would lose money because it wouldn't be able to operate under Chinese law and so therefore would have to pull out. However they chose to operate under Chinese law, and so therefore they should be held accountable for every morally reprehensible thing they do.
          • by Aladrin (926209)
            Did you even read what I wrote or the summary? We aren't talking about loss of profits for Yahoo (even though that would be a consequence), we are talking about employees of theirs going to JAIL under the same oppressive regime that is forcing them to hand over the info. This isn't '4 squares and cable' jail like the US has. This is 'enemy of the country' jail. The very same kind of jail the reporter was thrown in for violating the law in the first place.

            How does Yahoo's violating the law help? It does
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              we are talking about employees of theirs going to JAIL under the same oppressive regime that is forcing them to hand over the info.
              Yahoo employees cannot go to jail for breaking Chinese law if they do not operate out of China. Its that simple. They choose to operate out of China, therefore they choose to do morally repugnant things.
              • by sumdumass (711423)
                How many Yahoo employees operate in china? How many of them have families in china? I bet the answer isn't 0.

                What happens when yahoo say we need to open a shop in china to better address the people pf china's needs. I will tell you what happens, they send a handful of people over who are fluent in the language and they hire and train others.

                I wish people would get over this Our side is always right and be at minimum willing to look at the situation and consider something other then only what furthers their
            • by rtb61 (674572)
              So what you are saying is that your are morally correct to sacrifice the freedom of others in order to preserve your own and if you generate a profit well that's just an unintentional bonus.

              When you live in a country with a significant measure of freedom, democracy, and free speech, what right does that give you to support taking those things from others or even denying them the opportunity to strive for it.

              What, because they are foreigners, they don't count, or do you really honestly believe that corpo

              • by Aladrin (926209)
                W. T. F. How the hell did you manage to put all those words in my mouth?

                The people in Yahoo that made the decision not to give the information were -not- the people in that would have been going to jail for it, I'm sure. They probably weren't even -in- China.

                How is it more 'moral' to sacrifice people you know to save people you don't?

                And lastly, I wish the world were as black and white as you paint it. There is no 'support or do not support oppressive regimes' crap. We -could- abandon all those people i
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by truckaxle (883149)

          In other words, NOT to have turned over this information would have been at least as 'morally reprehensible' as turning it over because individuals would suffer for it -and- they would be breaking the law.

          Just who would be suffering for it by not turning over this information? Laws are man made artifices that often go against higher ethical laws. In Nazi Germany it was against the law to hide Jews. In the US at one time it was not against the law to keep and abuse other humans. Today, in several ME count

        • by sumdumass (711423)
          This entire story and story submission is spin. I mean are you surprised? I will give you an example,

          was jailed for allegedly providing state secrets to foreigners.
          There is no allegedly about it, the conviction says he did it.

          If your upset that this is a mouth piece for people with an agenda, I suggest you look a little close at some of the other stories presented here. You will find this isn't the exception to the norm.
      • by Rakishi (759894)
        So you want the US to make it illegal for any US company to have any legal presence outside the US? After all who knows what horrible laws those evil Europeans might force US companies to work under. After all maybe someone will be prosecuted for distributing violent movies to minors and heaven forbid someone encroach on god's given right for the youth to be exposed to violence in all forms. Granted the Europeans may have more cause for concern, after all the US has a death penalty and their companies may h
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          after all the US has a death penalty and their companies may horror of horrors be forced to help the police in a murder case (where the suspect is likely to face the death penalty).
          Funny you should mention that as not all countries are willing to help us in murder cases. The example of Canada comes to mind.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by trippeh (1097403)

            The example of Canada comes to mind
            What does Canada have to do with this? This isn't an American murder on Canadian soil, this isn't an extradition case. This is one man subverting a government he sees as unfit to govern, which is against the laws set by said government, him being found out due to the actions of a certain company, and the moral and social ramifications thereof. Where did Canada and the death penalty come into this?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Rakishi (759894)
              They came from my previous post and apparently you can't read. Anyway.

              Morals are not black and white nor can they be agreed upon by all, laws exist to set a line in the sand. You wish to set a line in the sand based on the morals of the people and so I mentioned cases where other countries go against US morals or vice-versa.

              So what if a Canadian company was asked to provide emails for a police investigation into a serial murdered in a state with the death penalty?

              Since to many Canadians the death penalty is
              • by KarmaMB84 (743001)
                None of the offenses that get someone the death penalty in the US are classified as exercises of basic human rights as set forth by the Unite Nations.
                • by sumdumass (711423)
                  WTF does the UN have to do with this now. the guy made a scenario up and asked for comment. Instead of comment it is being taken to new levels by other people.

                  The UN has nothing to do with the question asked, so why are you replying but attempting to avoid the question by talking about yet another unrelated entity?
          • by sumdumass (711423)
            If a Canadian citizen running a company inside the US refuses to help in a murder investigation inside the US, he will be in jail too.

            It is funny he mentioned it but it is even funny how you took it from the context.
        • I didn't say I wanted any such thing. I said it was up to the courts to decide whether or not an offence had been committed, and, if not, whether legislators might decide to legislate for the future. Your rant has absolutely nothing to do with my post.

          BTW, I believe it is illegal for US companies to trade with Cuba, for reasons supposedly associated with human rights violations. This shows that the US has in the past created laws directed against cooperation with another, specified government. So, not only

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Rakishi (759894)

            I didn't say I wanted any such thing. I said it was up to the courts to decide whether or not an offence had been committed, and, if not, whether legislators might decide to legislate for the future. Your rant has absolutely nothing to do with my post.

            Sure it does, its about the legislation of morality which is something you mentioned. Not the fake sort of legislation that would pass, not the half assed one that is the limit of US voter attention spans but true moral legislation applied to US corporate behavior.

            This shows that the US has in the past created laws directed against cooperation with another, specified government.

            Yet US companies deal with lots of other not so nice countries. Nor is the law that they can't do X in cuba but rather that they can't do anything in cuba period. That's my point, isolationism is the only method to ensure this and since all coun

        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          Interesting argument. But there is a line between right and wrong. I often find that China crosses that line. I have less problem with Yahoo than I do Google. Google has this ideal of not being evil yet they do business in China. Maybe we all should look at some of our own choices. Every IPod pumps more money into China as do most trips to Harbor Freight , Walmart, and many other stores.
          • by Rakishi (759894)

            But there is a line between right and wrong.

            Yes, there is a line but everyone's line is in a different location. Whose right and wrong do we enforce? I mean just look at the US? We have a massive war on drugs (o god, save me from the evil weed), more people in jail than any developed nation (by rate), the death penalty, don't ban hate speech, allow abortions and don't ban contraceptives. To many people those would fall quite heavily on the "wrong" side of the line, some would consider death preferably to letting someone commit some of these actions

            • by LWATCDR (28044)
              I do believe that there is an absolute right and wrong. I know I don't know what it is but I do believe that it exists.

              Yes the US does allow free political speech even if it is ugly because we believe that political free speech needs to be protected. The US doesn't allow free and unfettered access to violent content. We have ratings on movies and video games. Frankly there are people in the US that think that this already goes too far.

              "China is despite everything slowly moving towards a more democratic or
    • by rlp (11898)
      but did Yahoo! actually do anything legally wrong?

      Nope, just morally reprehensible.
    • by snero3 (610114)

      I agree with you, not to condone what China did and is doing, but legally Yahoo! did nothing wrong. Basically the guy didn't read his EULA. Unless you have it in writing don't assume your information is safe.

      I think pretty much every free email company (included ISPs) will hand over your email data when officially requested.

    • by jellie (949898) on Monday June 11, 2007 @08:21AM (#19463905)
      The article lacks detail regarding the actual claims and which lawsuit it is, considering that there are probably many lawsuits against China by dissidents who have been oppressed or punished by the country. Here's an article [washingtonpost.com] from the Washington Post, dated two months ago, that said Wang Xiaoning filed a lawsuit against Yahoo! (I'm guessing this is the same suit). They argue that by giving up their information, Yahoo! is supporting torture (I believe), a violation of the Alien Tort Statute [wikipedia.org]. My guess is that this Shi Tao is being added as a plaintiff to this lawsuit. From the article:

      The suit, in trying to hold Yahoo accountable, could become an important test case. Advocacy groups are seeking to use a 217-year-old U.S. law to punish corporations for human rights violations abroad, an effort the Bush administration has opposed... Yahoo is guilty of "an act of corporate irresponsibility," said Morton Sklar, executive director of [World Organization for Human Rights USA]. "Yahoo had reason to know that if they provided China with identification information that those individuals would be arrested."
      If that's true (which will need to be debated in court), then yes, Yahoo! did do something legally wrong.
      • by Quixote (154172) *

        "Yahoo had reason to know that if they provided China with identification information that those individuals would be arrested."

        Wait... does that mean corporations can provide information only when they know somebody won't be arrested?

        I find this whole lawsuit ridiculous (and I am a liberal, opposed to the repression wrought by the PRC regime). Yahoo responded to a subpoena (or the Chinese equivalent of it). This is no different than the subpoena response that 1000s of businesses in the US do. There was no way for Yahoo to know what the alleged crime was! Just like the FBI and other LEOs in the US do not tell the businesses wha

      • I'm not so sure it is so clear-cut. Yahoo has employees in China, and those employees might be subject to prosecution because they didn't follow Chinese law with respect to investigations.
    • by 56ker (566853)
      Whether it was legally wrong or not doesn't matter. If people perceive it as ethically wrong or morally wrong a blaze of publicity about it in the press will hurt Yahoo's reputation (and probably stock price) - hopefully making Yahoo learn a valuable lesson.
    • by xENoLocO (773565) *
      Unfortunately, Yahoo did not do anything legally wrong. They have to comply with the laws of a country in order to do business there.
    • > ... that China is right in their efforts to censor the Internet or stifle free speech, but did Yahoo! actually do anything legally wrong?

      IBM didn't do anything wrong when they sold their Jew, Gay and Gypsy tracking services to the Nazis. Yes: Really! They even had IBM Customer Service Engineers on site at Concentration Camps running the tabulation equipment. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/03/27/print/ma in504730.shtml [cbsnews.com]

      Yahoo Jerry Wang's argument is that Yahoo should comply with the law of the count
    • Considering the recent flickr.com ban, they probably didn't do anything ;-) That or they haven't earnt enough brown nosing points like google has. ho ho ho :)
    • by norman619 (947520)
      No they didn't do anything legally wrong. They were complying with Chinese laws and the deal they struck with the Chinese government. It think it's silly that people feel a company has the right to ignore laws if they don't agree with them. Just because something is legal here in the US and other nations doesn't mean it's legal EVERYWHERE. Yeah Chinese laws tend to crush freedoms but guess what? That's their right to do since it is their country. It's kinda like your neighbor feeling they are within t
  • Not sure but (Score:2, Insightful)

    by svendsen (1029716)
    I see posts asking if it is legal or not but does this matter? If country A passes a law that by moral standards is so disgusting can't people be held accountable if they still obey the law? If the law saws genocide against a people is legal and people do it, shouldn't those people still be held accountable? So if what happened in China is legal but makes the free world barf in disgust shouldn't the human morale side overrule the legal one?

    Just some food for thought to hurt our brains on a Monday.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by mgabrys_sf (951552)
      Some students tried in China - they got hit with tanks, we gave them more trade agreements. I'm still waiting for plan-b.
      • by svendsen (1029716)
        Plan B involves giving all Chinese people amnesty and making them US citizens....
        • That's a pretty good idea actually. Give the subtlety of Chinese politics it'd be one hell of a message. Anyone know a good next step?
    • Funny how many people here bring up morality. Morality is just as moving a target as laws. The only real difference is one is codified by governments. What is considered morally right in China is not the same as elsewhere. So who's standards do you apply? Western nations or the rest of the world? By population, the entire world would be fine with, "death penalty for insulting {'the Tai King','the Government','Mohammad','your mother'}. Killing daughters because they married someone the family didn't approve
      • by svendsen (1029716)
        I've thought about the whole whose standards do you apply and have come up with a decent answer (in my mind at least). The morals we should apply are ones that gives human beings freedom and the ability to live their lives how they want too (without causing harms to others).

        In more detail any set of morals that punish someone for just how they where born (race, sex, caste, etc) which a person has no control over has no business being called morals. Yay you are born a girl, they don't like girls, you
      • by kalirion (728907)
        The simple solution would be for everyone to follow my morals.
      • by Christoph (17845)

        One minimal objectice standard of morality is that behavior which will wipe out your own group or species, or otherwise harm your own survival, is immoral. E.g, A culture or group which killed all of their own newborn babies would be, objectively speaking, immoral, proven by the fact they exterminated themselves. They failed.

        Imprisoning people for engaging in free speech is not good for economic competitiveness, public mental health, or the advancement of better government. America is more competitive be

    • The difference between a moral person and a whiny bitch is that a moral person sees a problem, studies it in depth, and tries to find solutions while a whiny bitch just sees the surface problem and starts saying it's bad without ever taking the time to learn about the problem and find a solution.

      This post is likely going to go straight to -1, troll or flamebait, but it gets tiresome to see people keep pointing and saying "bad" without ever proposing a solution that takes the big picture into account. China'
      • by danpsmith (922127)

        This post is likely going to go straight to -1, troll or flamebait, but it gets tiresome to see people keep pointing and saying "bad" without ever proposing a solution that takes the big picture into account. China's human rights record is pretty shitty, nobody will disagree. But doing business with China, raising the standard of living and raising the education level along with a host of other things, just might be better than trying to cut them off from the world economy.

        I don't know why people have to c

  • by whamett (917546)

    Yahoo has often recited the standard 'must comply with local laws' line, but have they ever identified which Chinese law(s), specifically, forced their hand? They were even asked point-blank, and remained conveniently silent [epochtimes.com].

    Shi Tao's lawyer says there was "no obligation at all to follow mainland China's law" (from the article linked above).

    Is there in fact any substance to Yahoo's position, or is it just a hollow public relations exercise? If there's truth to what Yahoo says, they could be a bit

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday June 11, 2007 @10:40AM (#19465289) Homepage
    Okay, so this guy is suing Yahoo because he's under fire for breaking "laws" in his own country. Look here, if I'm committing a "crime", say uh, smoking dope in my Canadian backyard and some NDP neighbor calls the pigs, well my neighbor is an asshole but I was still technically breaking the local law. I can harbor seething distaste for my politically-inferior cohabitant, but I have no legal ground to sue him.

    Do we agree with China's corrupt censorship ? No. Does that mean it's ok for us to ignore their government's laws and impose our liberal views on THEIR citizens ? No. This guy got what was coming to him. If he doesn't want to be punished for speaking his mind, he should move to a free country.
    • I don't understand all of the uproar against Yahoo/etc. Sure we can argue that there are a lot of moral issues with Chinese laws, at least compared with "western" values. But directing anger at Yahoo for obeying local laws will not solve the underlying problem. All that will do is cause either 1) Yahoo to be kicked out of China, or 2) Local employees to be prosecuted under local laws. We can argue that choosing to not do business in China rather than obey morally questionable laws is a good thing, it wo
    • I have two problems with your argument:
      1) You obviously are used to living in a free country where it's not that difficult to decide where you want to live. In a totalitarian country, it's frequently not so easy to decide you want to pack up and move somewhere else. Remember the wall around Berlin before East and West Germany unified in the 90's? That wasn't to keep West Germans from infiltrating East Germany and voting the Communist Party out; it was to keep the East Germans in. What makes you think
      • by billcopc (196330)
        What makes you think it would be any easier to leave China?

        Oh, I don't know, maybe the fact that Chinese immigrants account for roughly 8% of my country's population. That's not counting Canadian-born people from Chinese parents. To top it off, the collective Chinese languages overtook Arabic languages roughly ten years ago, becoming the most popular allophone language in Canada. That means it comes right after English and French, and believe me we have lots of Arabic people in the cities. Heck we now h
  • No real case here that I can see.

    He was in China when he sent the email
    It was Yahoo China and it's subsidiaries that handed over the information
    They were legally obliged to hand over the information (moral obligation is of no concern to the courts) according the Chinese law

    The only reason they can even try to bring this to trial in the US is because Yahoo China is owned by Yahoo US

    These cases are only being brought to give bad publicity to the corps involved and raise awareness of the China situation, I hig
  • I believe personal liberty that does not directly stiffle another person's liberty is a good thing (TM). Change is needed across the globe to this end.

    Ideally, we would all like change to happen from within by awareness. There are repeated reports that governments attempt to stiffle awareness (maybe more so in China).

    Attempting to force change externally often does not increase awareness because abstractions are created which shifts focus away from the element trying to be changed.

    From this perspective, thi

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