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Falun Gong Sues Cisco 312

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the freedom-through-technology dept.
schwit1 submitted a story from CNet. From the article: "Cisco Systems designed a surveillance system to help the Chinese government track and ultimately suppress members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, according to a lawsuit the group filed against the network equipment maker. The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in Federal District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, alleges Cisco supplied and helped maintain a surveillance system known as the 'Golden Shield' that allowed the Chinese government to track and censor the group's Internet activities. As a result of Cisco's technology, Falun Gong members suffered false imprisonment, torture, and wrongful death, according the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the religious group by the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Law Foundation."
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Falun Gong Sues Cisco

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  • Cisco or China? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by matthew_t_west (800388) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:28PM (#36222012) Homepage Journal

    The real issue here is how China is treating those it thinks are part of the Falun Gong movement. Cisco's equipment is one of the tools used to track the movement, but it doesn't seem that Cisco orchestrated the capture, detainment, torture, and deaths of innocent people. China did.

    M

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by halfEvilTech (1171369)

      This isn't much different than families of murder victims suing gun manufactors. People want to place the blame somewhere and in this case they think they stand a better chance suing Cisco instead of their own government. It would be safe to assume that if they sued the Chinese government instead, there would be no trial just jail and death sentences for those doing the suing.

      • Re:Cisco or China? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by guspasho (941623) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:37PM (#36222102)

        It is pretty different. The suit alleges that Cisco was actively complicit in the persecution of the Falun Gong. It wasn't like the Chinese gov't bought a bunch of their product made for general use and Cisco had no idea what it was going to be used for.

        • Re:Cisco or China? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cfalcon (779563) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:39PM (#36222124)

          Exactly this. A gun can be used for many things, as can a router. But if you are supplying a known assassin with tech support about how best to pick off preschoolers, you have crossed the line from supplying a product into aiding and abetting a crime. Almost all guns are NOT used for crimes, ever. The same is true of routers- but NOT of routers sold to China to help setup their oppressive firewall.

          That's the big difference here.

        • by siglercm (6059)

          Do you really think that Cisco is stupid enough or greedy enough to willingly develop technology for and in partnership with the Chinese government specifically targeted at tracking down and persecuting and killing members of Falun Gong? Hey, you might be right, but I doubt it.

          • And arms dealers that have sold weapons and ammo to Libya should also be shocked and appalled that a man who has been implicated repeatedly in the murder of innocent civilians across the world would actually turn those weapons on innocent civilians in his own country.

            Cisco knew with 100% certainty that its products would be used to suppress free speech, hunt dissidents, and enforce the great firewall. Whether they are legally obligated or have any culpability is up to the courts to decide.
          • by guspasho (941623)

            They are absolutely greedy enough, their investors expect nothing less. As for stupid, this is just the opposite. The Chinese government is a huge, *huge* client, and Cisco stands to make massive amounts of money if it impresses the Chinese govt with their performance of this contract.

            Unfortunately, business is just set up to be nearly completely amoral (not immoral, though that is often the result.) The idea that markets will always result in the best, and most moral results is a fantasy.

          • by timeOday (582209)
            Unless this lawsuit is successful, there is nothing stupid about helping the Chinese do this, from a business perspective.
          • by siglercm (6059)

            Didn't know to whom to reply, so I replied to myself. So sue me.

            specifically targeted at tracking down and persecuting and killing members of Falun Gong?

            "Specifically targeted at... members of Falun Gong" is the nexus of this case. It may be morally wrong to sell arms. It may be morally wrong to sell censoring or 'net tracking equipment and technology. But this is not a case of moral law. It's one of law, as in court of law. If they can't prove they specifically targeted the plaintiffs, there is no case. Of course, this also addresses the voluminous holier-than-thou "arms dealer" express

        • Re:Cisco or China? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday May 24, 2011 @12:18AM (#36224886)

          It is pretty different. The suit alleges that Cisco was actively complicit in the persecution of the Falun Gong. It wasn't like the Chinese gov't bought a bunch of their product made for general use and Cisco had no idea what it was going to be used for.

          Given the fact that Cisco consulted the Chinese government on this, the correct analogy is, suing a gun manufacturer that not only sold a gun to a known mass murderer but also found a crowded shopping centre, stored, maintained and loaded the weapon for him.

      • Re:Cisco or China? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by poity (465672) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:48PM (#36222186)

        Compared to commercial gun manufacturers, Cisco probably had a much clearer idea of who they were dealing with and the consequences involved in being complicit -- unless we change the comparison to companies selling guns to known criminals.

      • by migla (1099771)

        This isn't much different than families of murder victims suing gun manufactors. People want to place the blame somewhere and in this case they think they stand a better chance suing Cisco instead of their own government. It would be safe to assume that if they sued the Chinese government instead, there would be no trial just jail and death sentences for those doing the suing.

        But did the gun manufacturers knowingly sell the guns directly to known murderers that were widely presumed to almost certainly be mu

      • by geekmux (1040042)

        This isn't much different than families of murder victims suing gun manufactors. People want to place the blame somewhere...

        Uh, wrong.

        Families of murder victims don't sue gun manufacturers. Their lawyers do, going after the deepest pockets. Who the hell in their right mind would put fault on the fork for making someone fat? A lawyer would, not the victim, because they know how screwed up the legal system is.

        Victims don't want to put the blame "somewhere", they want to put the blame and find justice where it SHOULD be, which is why so many victims end up finding their own justice, because they know how screwed up the legal sys

        • by Velex (120469)

          Victims don't want to put the blame "somewhere", they want to put the blame and find justice where it SHOULD be, which is why so many victims end up finding their own justice, because they know how screwed up the legal system is.

          No, no, no. Let me guess. The legal system is "screwed up" because it lets the person you simply think did it go free because nobody could actually prove that he did it?

          People like you need to live through being falsely accused of something to knock you back down a few notches.

    • One might as well sue IBM for supplying tabulation equipment to the germans, so they could track "guests" at jewish concentration camps.

      While I don't think this suit will succed for a variety of reasons, such as it happening under non-us jurisdiction as well as the plaintiff not having standing in the case.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by the simurgh (1327825)
        they did sue IBM for this and other actions. they won. now how do i add that little r symbol to the name IBM on here
    • Cisco merely provided cost effective dissident detection solutions to global partners, for profit!

      • Calling all police forces: need to catch your bad guy? We can detect all potential threats for you, so all you have to do is cuff 'em and let the legal system sort it out. PoliceNet, a Cisco Product.

        M

    • Publicity.

      You can't sue China because it is a sovereign state (the lawsuit would be thrown out immediately).

      Suing Cisco they get a lot of press coverage where they will center about the HR situation in China and were Cisco will be secondary. That's the primary aim, and they get it even if they lose the lawsuit.

  • I don't think it will work, but it is an interesting case. The implications would be staggering if they won. Of course, the 1% would never allow that.

    • Why should it work? Shouldn't China be held liable, not Cisco?

      Maybe Cisco can sue China in turn, but at the moment, this sounds like someone that got attacked with a kitchen knife suing the kitchen knife maker.

      • by guspasho (941623)

        How could China possibly be held liable? Everything the Chinese gov't does within their own borders is basically legal by definition. What can a US judge do to them? For all they care you might as well be suing Mother Nature. Cisco, on the other hand, is a US company and may be in violation of laws prohibiting certain activities overseas (if such laws exist, I've no idea) and more importantly, they can actually be tried and held liable here, unlike the Chinese.

      • by guspasho (941623)

        Also, you missed the critical part of the summary that was even helpfully underlined and hyperlinked for you. They plaintiffs allege that Cisco was contracted for the specific purpose of committing the persecutions, it even had a name. So no, it isn't like a kitchen knife maker being sued, it's more like the guy driving the getaway car being prosecuted, even though he never even stepped in the bank that was robbed.

      • Re:Good luck. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by amiga3D (567632) on Monday May 23, 2011 @06:11PM (#36222390)

        If a guy walks into a store and says "hey I need to cut my neighbors head off, which knife do you have that would be best for the job?" You then go, "yes sir, this one right here should work nice, the serrated edge should cut right through the neck without the blade turning on the bone!" Well then you might could sue the guy who sold him the knife. I think they are alleging that this is essentially what Cisco did.

        • by Kennon (683628)
          You are comparing a single person to a government that represents billions of people. Using your rationale people in Libya should all sue the hundreds of various companies that manufacture all the military equipment that NATO has been using to blow them up. Silly.
          • by amiga3D (567632)

            huh? I think you've got it backwards. I'm saying that if Cisco actively participated knowing in helping provide equipment, services and knowledge that they were helping to catch political dissidents for the chinese government.....they might could be sued. If they just thought that some chinese civil service IT guys wanted to build a network then probably not. Suing a government is a little more problematic. I am sure that if say, General Dynamics sold some kind of guided bomb to Libya and the Libyan go

    • by Lally Singh (3427)

      The results of Discovery will be *awesome*.

  • by davevr (29843) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:36PM (#36222088) Homepage
    ... then it is not false imprisonment. Not to say that the law shouldn't be changed, but hey, get your terms straight...
    • ... then it is not false imprisonment. Not to say that the law shouldn't be changed, but hey, get your terms straight...

      Not that I side with just another sect, but a government can impose an unlawful imprisonement. This goes like that:

      1. Chinese Government sets a set of laws (even dictatures have laws).
      2. Group or individuals read the laws, and try to get their objectives being careful of not breaking any.
      3. The government notices, and the state security imprison that people even if they didn't break the laws. To
  • Oh boy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 23, 2011 @05:37PM (#36222100) Journal
    This is going to be one to watch: The US is supposed to be all against repression and lovey-dovey about religious freedom and stuff; but there is No Fucking Way that they would let the precedent be set that corporate quislings executing illegal state activities are in any way culpable(see also retroactive telco immunity...) because that would cut into their own ability to wiretap whatever they want with the full connivance of basically anybody who is anybody.

    Awkward. Hopefully publicly so....
    • If I had to guess, the Judicial branch will let it slide because such products and services were not endorsed by the Federal Government. Carry on Cisco, business as usual.

      However, the aftermath of this might involve legislation to prevent future exportation of technology to be used in this manor...exceeeeeppt, you can still sell it inside the US.

      See? We can have our cake and eat it too.

      • by guspasho (941623)

        Whatever the Chinese gov't does in China is legal. By definition, considering the type of government they have. Does the US even have any laws that prohibit US companies from participating in such oppression?

        • by jrumney (197329)

          Whatever the Chinese gov't does in China is legal.

          Not necessarily, under International Law.

        • by gmhowell (26755)

          Whatever the Chinese gov't does in China is legal. By definition, considering the type of government they have. Does the US even have any laws that prohibit US companies from participating in such oppression?

          Richard Nixon said something similar once...

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        I think it is more likely to be decided on whether there is a law that covers this sort of cooperation.

        It's a fact that Cisco did something legal in China. The Chinese government was their customer.

        However, a company can still face trial for indulging in certain sorts of business practices. It doesn't matter if it happened in China and was sold in China only. You can still be in violation of US law. The US may not be able to reach out and take you from your country of origin, but it's technically not il

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      Actually the US govt. exempts itself from legal suits and all kinds of laws many, many times. In at least one case a US president (Jackson I think) actually just ignored a Supreme Court ruling. He completely blew it off.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      How far do you go back with this, anyway? If such a suit were to succeed then the followup would be Jews vs. IBM.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        There are plenty of people alive with standing to sue Cisco for actual damages, including wrongful death of family members they personally lost.

        Those Jews still alive with that same standing in damages by IBM's work for the Nazis have a case. Dead people are arguable.

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        How far do you go back with this, anyway? If such a suit were to succeed then the followup would be Jews vs. IBM.

        IIRC, they've sued Damiler-Benz and VW. If they didn't sue Dehomag, I'm pretty sure they have sued IBM.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 23, 2011 @06:03PM (#36222300)

    Falung Gong is sueing cisco not because it's right, but it's because it's sensationalism.They want to bring attention to their presecution in china. You can't sue china in china, you can't sue china in the US. So you sue Cisco for providing the equipment to China.

    Of course they will lose, but it gets the point across. People in China are being persecuted because of their religion and Cisco is an accomplice. It's not about holding cisco liable for anything lawfully wrong, it's about pointing the morality spotlight towards cisco and china.

    Should Falung Gong do this? Hell yes! At most some lawyers get rich, but it is a shot at getting the discussion of religious freedom started.

    • Falung Gong is sueing cisco...

      No, Human Rights Law Foundation Inc. of Washington, D.C. is suing Cisco Inc. on behalf of some people half way around the world who have never heard of the Human Rights Law Foundation Inc. of Washington D.C.

      Its a handful of lawyers who pretend they are helping people who have never heard of them by suing some company.

      Only a lawyer could believe in such a farce.

  • I don't for a second believe that "Cisco" did anything. I can easily believe someone in Cisco's employ did something stupid and/or evil.

    When you have people working "for" you, they're going to fuck you over eventually, either deliberately or negligently.

    • by guspasho (941623)

      If that is the case then when can any behavior ever be attributed to a corporation rather than its employees? Since all corporations are comprised of people, this argument can be used to absolve every corporation of everything ever.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        1. Never. Corporations are not entities in fact. They are artificial aggregations of entities to serve a collective purpose. The way we treat them as individuals is stupid.

        2. "comprise", not "are comprised of".

        3. Absolve the corporation, but only if you can identify the individuals responsible, and if you can't then the one responsible is the CEO, the board, and the shareholders. As things are now, the corporation shields these people against the consequences of their decisions.

    • Well, but they were obeying whose orders? And who was not checking the stupid ones?

      An intelligent boss won't tell you to do something illegal. He will tell you "I want more deals with China, you work out the details". Then he'll go golfing, not because he likes to but because when thing begin to get hotter, he can then show his horror at your misbehaviour and lament that "if I only had known about that, I would not have never approved of it."

      • by blair1q (305137)

        And that is why I won't put myself in that situation. Because in reality you don't control people even if you employ them, and by the time you can fire them they've fucked you on your own dime.

  • Seriously. Cisco has helped Chinese leaders and their minions attack loads of western computers and steal money,info from them. Perhaps, if a group lawsuit is done, this could be taken on in a large way. Ideally, it would lead Cisco to pull out of China.
    • Seriously. Cisco has helped Chinese leaders and their minions attack loads of western computers and steal money,info from them. Perhaps, if a group lawsuit is done, this could be taken on in a large way. Ideally, it would lead Cisco to pull out of China.

      I think I'd sooner hit Cisco, where it counts, the wallet. There are now viable open source alternatives to Cisco routers: OpenBSD's OSPF/BGP implementation and Vyatta. Both can do VLANs, VRF, VRRP, and MPLS. Both can effectively be drop in replacements. I run a small business on the side and all of my infrastructure is OpenBSD-based.

  • by guspasho (941623) on Monday May 23, 2011 @06:19PM (#36222464)

    Whatever the Chinese gov't does in China is legal. By definition, considering the type of government they have. Does the US even have any laws that prohibit US companies from participating in such oppression? I think that would determine whether this case has any merit to begin with.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Whatever the Chinese gov't does in China is legal. By definition, considering the type of government they have...

      Uhhh...so what is the excuse of the US Government? They certainly seem to have the same cavalier attitude about doing whatever, regardless of some pesky documents that SHOULD be getting in their way (cough, Constitution, cough)...

    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      No, even in China their mafia government official has laws that limit and prohibit many actions by the mafia government. They're often ignored. But those acts are still illegal. The problem is getting the Chinese government to officially recognize that they're illegal, and punish them according to the law.

      Hence suing in US court, which has laws against US corporations violating foreign laws, international laws, US laws, and all kinds of other laws. And where people suing still have some chance of seeing eve

    • The U.S. certainly has laws to punish its citizens for transgressions abroad (these were implemented primarily to stop the practice of "sex tourism" to places like Thailand that have lower age of consent laws). I wonder how well those would apply to corporations?
    • If Cisco were a Chinese company that maybe sent the odd salesman to the US or maybe had a subsidiary division in the US, this would not be an issue.

      Whatever the Chinese gov't does in China is legal. By definition, considering the type of government they have.

      Yes. If they do it in China. The real legal question will be whether they did any of it in the US. Were the US executives aware of the sale? Engineers? Did they know or should they have known how the equipment would be used? What did they do when their knowledge was undeniable?

      Does the US even have any laws that prohibit US companies from participating in such oppression?

      The better question is whether they have laws that shield companies in ways tha

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Monday May 23, 2011 @06:28PM (#36222562) Homepage
    How is this litigable in a US court?
    • by mortonda (5175)

      Yeah this was my first question. Exactly who has legal standing to bring the case?

    • Re:Jurisdiction? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by andb52 (854780) on Monday May 23, 2011 @06:43PM (#36222688)
      Jurisdiction comes from the Alien Tort Statute. There have been a number of recent cases of aliens suing corporations in the US because of violations of international law. Whether what Cisco did in China was legal under Chinese law does not matter; the ATS is all about whether norms of customary international law have been violated. Torture is the primary example. This is not some crazy lawsuit; it is a tried and true method of punishing corporations for their complicity in human rights violations.
  • These days companies do what is in their own best interests, making money. It is a shame that the world has become so unprincipled as to accept money knowing it would be used for doing harm. I was raised to be aware of social issues and with a sense of ethics. Had I been an executive at Cisco, I would have told the CCP to go fly a kite and that I would not be complicit in assisting them with potential civil rights abuses. No amount of money would make up for the guilt I would feel knowing that my produc
    • by cdrguru (88047)

      OK, but what do you think should be done about architectural firms that design US prisons? Clearly these buildings were not designed to be safe or else there wouldn't be such problems in prisons.

      How about cell phone manufacturers? Any idiot could have foreseen that if "texting" is possible in a moving vehicle there will be drivers that recklessly endanger others by driving while distracted. The cell phone manufacturers didn't listen to their idiots and released phones that enabled this kind of behavior w

  • I guess they now have a model to sue Germany as well, for religious prosecution...
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      How? China isn't being sued, so Germany wouldn't fit this model. And how have German Scientologists been systematically sureveilled, suppressed, falsely imprisoned, beaten and jailed?

      Your guess is supported by neither facts nor logic.

  • living and operating outside a FREE country, producing and selling censorship materials for finding, repressing and silencing freedom in other countries.

    whores have integrity at least. they conduct their trade.
  • Couldn't a similar suit be brought against the developers iptables or squid if those applications are used by an oppressive government? Just answering a question from a user with .cn email address could be turned into "assisting the censorship of dissidents" by an enterprising lawyer..

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday May 23, 2011 @08:19PM (#36223492) Homepage

    The problem with this sort of thing is the fact that laws are actually different in different places.

    See, Falun Gong is an illegal organization in China. The members are breaking the law by simply being members. After that, the punishment for being a member is perhaps severe, but nonetheless, it is punishment for being a member of an outlawed group.

    Similarly, it is illegal in modern-day Germany to belong to the Nazi party. This group is outlawed and membership in it is illegal. While you might not rate much torture or death, such membership is going to be frowned upon severely by the German government. Up to and including imprisonment.

    In the US it is difficult to point to an organization that is illegal to belong to, but I suspect openly disclosing that you are a member of Hamas or Hizbollah could rate you at least a swift deportation and might cause problems in gaining entry to the US if you went about it in the conventional manner. Currently in the US it is not illegal to belong to a group that is exclusively formed for the purposes of committing crimes, such as street gangs, motorcycle gangs, or the Mafia.

    While it might be all noble and such to say that China should just let groups that violently disagree with their government exist in peace, it isn't happening. China seems to be highly motivated to make the lives of people that want to change (forcibly, if not violently) the government a living hell. Sort of discourages revolution when the potential leaders are imprisoned. While we may disagree with this policy, they are being nothing if not consistent in their treatment of members of illegal organizations. Cisco has very little to do with the policy and its implementation. Had they simply refused to be part of the implementation someone else would have stepped up. When we make individuals and companies liable for such downstream actions I am all for going after Cisco but first I think we better start thinking about architectural firms that design prisons. Then we can talk about cell phone manufacturers making driving-while-distracted possible.

    Maybe in 50 years or so after we deal with all of the other problems, we can get around to Cisco.

    • It's simple. American companies need to keep their fingers out of controversial foreign politics. Especially when the policies they are helping to enforce are counter to the US Constitution.

      I would like to see broader enforcement of American standards on American companies that operate abroad. Policies on pay, discrimination, child labor, workplace safety, disposal, right to privacy, etc. They need to meet or exceed many of the same standards that American works enjoy here in America. If you want to outsour

    • I'd just like to go over some history. Falun gong is more like Scientologists than Nazis. They dont "violently disagree" with anyone, but are in fact completely non-violent and are forbidden to kill living things for any reason. They basically have some weird beliefs, and the Chinese media was making fun of them. They had a small protest in a park because they resented being made fun of. The Chinese police responded by clubbing protesters, and arresting several. So, they held a bigger, silent protest

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