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Censorship Government The Media Politics

Business At The Price Of Freedom 254

An anonymous reader writes "The TechZone has an article on how much technology companies setting up shops in China have to kowtow to the Chinese government. All the major search engines have given in to Chinese demands to throttle liberty in exchange for access to the Chinese market and Microsoft has blocked users of its MSN site from using the terms 'freedom,' 'democracy' and other concepts China has designated as dangerous. From the article: 'Most disconcerting are recent reports that Yahoo!'s Hong Kong operation is turning over emails which helped convict a reporter. Journalist Shi Tao was jailed and sentenced to 10 years in prison for "illegally sending state secrets abroad." The secrets that he revealed were information his newspaper received from the state propaganda department about how they could cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. He was identified because he had used Yahoo!'s free email service for which Yahoo! turned over log files to authorities that were later tracked back to his computer.'"
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Business At The Price Of Freedom

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  • by Tuxedo Jack ( 648130 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:32PM (#13638852) Homepage
    If you don't like it, don't use them. You do have a choice, you know.
    • As does Google, as does Microsoft, as does Cisco. Our "freedom loving" plutocracy allows American companies to assist in this crap scot free, while hypocritically decrying the illegitimate Communist government of Red China for things like persecution of Christians and violent repression of free speech such as that in the Tiananmen Square massacre. There are no choices--the plutocracy cares for money, no matter whose rights it tramples or whom it kills.
      • The average chinese citizen already has access to "technology" to get around the filters - after all, LOTS of the spam we get is from them.

        They'll search for and write about "fr33d0m", or "d3m0cr4t1c", or "1 p3rs0n, 1 v0t3".

        Or they'll create their own "free-speek", as opposed to "l33t-sp34k".

        Lets face it, subcultures are good at producing their own language to communicate with that are impenetrable to the overlords.

        The mafia, the hells angels, etc. all have their internal language to make sure that an

    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @03:33PM (#13639213) Journal
      " If you don't like it, don't use them. You do have a choice, you know."

      Sure, we have that choice... for now. But what happens when all available choices are doing the same thing? The only reason a large company would not submit to China's demands is if doing so would make them lose more business elsewhere. The size of the Chinese market and the relative indifference of consumers preclude this.

      Assuming that Chinese policy is wrong, wouldn't it be best for China to change their policy? As more and more companies give in to China's demands, their restrictions on free speech on the internet are becoming a foregone conclusion. Simply not using Yahoo isn't going to change Yahoo's policy, nor China's.

      If you want change in China, be proactive. Don't just not use Yahoo -- pass the word to people who are unaware. Let Yahoo know how much business they are losing. Investigate who else bends to the Chinese government, boycott and spread the word.

      You may feel like you're doing something by not using Yahoo, and you are. But it's not enough. Have you forwarded the article to your non-Slashdot reading friends who might be concerned about speech limitations in China, asking them to boycott Yahoo?

      Have you contacted your legislators about this, to make them aware that you are concerned? Whether or not government can or will do anything about it, public officials need to know.

      Here's contact info for US Congresspeople:
      http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ [visi.com]

      You should also contact your state legislators -- I could see Massachusetts (for example) disallowing Yahoo use in government offices if enough residents do so.

      Have you written a letter to Yahoo demanding change, explaining why you are boycotting them and organizing others to do so?

      Here's a link to Yahoo's management team bios:
      http://docs.yahoo.com/docs/pr/executives/index.htm l [yahoo.com]

      Here's a link to Yahoo's board of directors:
      http://docs.yahoo.com/docs/pr/executives/board.htm l [yahoo.com]

      Yahoo's address is:
      701 First Ave Sunnyvale CA 97809

    • I *already* don't use Yahoo ... does that mean I have no recourse to criticise their unethical behaviour?

      I think consumer boycotts must be almost the most useless protest method ever devised. But they are always advocated because consumers are, in fact, virtually powerless, and thus desperate for *some* sort of recourse.
  • The scope.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by knightinshiningarmor ( 653332 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:33PM (#13638864)
    The companies that are already in China know how to work with the government. They're not going to do anything stupid.

    This seems like a warning message to companies like Google and Microsoft, who in recent events expressed interest in targeting China (in a marketing, not tactical, sense). Will these large corporations fall flat on their face when they move into China?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:34PM (#13638875)
    In America we don't kowtow to the government, we bend over and grab our ankles.
  • by fuzzy12345 ( 745891 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:37PM (#13638903)
    Not to underplay the concessions that China forces out of businesses operating there, but...

    How about US corporations cooperating with CALEA (all wiretaps, all the time), broadcasters knuckling down on popular entertainment figures for fear of reprisals from the FCC, and ISPs who almost always say "we are cooperating fully with authorities," code for "we're not going to challenge the dodgy search warrant (or the fact that there's none at all), but will turn over subscriber records at the drop of a hat to avoid abusive regulators getting tough on us over other issues if we don't play ball. Other examples, anyone?

    • by ImaLamer ( 260199 ) <john...lamar@@@gmail...com> on Saturday September 24, 2005 @03:07PM (#13639090) Homepage Journal
      I would be worried if China even acted like a "free country", but they don't. They are pretty open with the idea that they are restricting speech on the Internet, they aren't hiding it.

      Now, OTOH, my country claims to be free - and it isn't. Your examples show this fact. So, let's stop talking about China and start talking about something we might be able to change: America
      • So, let's stop talking about China and start talking about something we might be able to change: America.

        Who says you can't do both? Boycott the ISPs who turn over data at the slightest provocation, don't listen to censorious broadcasters, and find alternatives to companies that enable authoritarian regimes to remain standing. Oh, and figure out ways to evade surveillance that both Americans and Chinese can use to fool the assholes who want to run our lives.

        I'm more worried that China is up-front about go
  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <brian0918@@@gmail...com> on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:38PM (#13638910)
    This is ridiculous. Surely the stockholders can't think highly of this incident.
    • Re:Boycott Yahoo! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by billcopc ( 196330 )
      Actually the stock holders are probably pleased with this behavior. Business is not about people, it's about money. Playing nice with the Chinese government, no matter how ridiculous it is to the rest of the world, means tapping into a rich, delicate market. It means more money. More money = happy stock holders.

      The only "real" way to protest against China's disregard for honest society, would be to go to war with them and eliminate those responsible for this disgusting mistreatment of human beings. Now
    • Re:Boycott Yahoo! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Seumas ( 6865 )
      From the comments I've heard people make in the last month, it doesn't matter what a company does in another country - (even if the company is American) - as long as it's legal or is required, demanded, condoned by the government of the country they are doing it in.

      In other words, if it's legal to have seven year old kids sewing shoes for your company to sell, locked in a basement with no ventilation or breaks - that's fine. If it's required that you turn over documents and inform on every employee you have
      • Re:Boycott Yahoo! (Score:3, Informative)

        by falconwolf ( 725481 )

        From the comments I've heard people make in the last month, it doesn't matter what a company does in another country - (even if the company is American) - as long as it's legal or is required, demanded, condoned by the government of the country they are doing it in.

        Actually in some cases it's corporations that pay or aid and abet military actions against civilians. For instance the group the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) sued Exxon [bbc.co.uk] using the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 [harvard.edu] for abetting the Indo

  • by c0l0 ( 826165 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:42PM (#13638942) Homepage
    ...and virtually a million ways to cloak sensitive data from You Personal Government's eyes. It's sad those who could have saved their liberty by using those, often did not do so, obviously :(
    • Let's be honest. Anyone who has actually tried using Freenet knows rather quickly that it's just not that usable. Perhaps it is more secure than the WWW, but it is nowhere near as useful. I mean, waiting literally half a day to obtain a few KB of content isn't worth it. Chances are if you're in a despotic situation then you won't be able to wait the long times necessary with Freenet.

  • The fine line (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brajesh ( 847246 ) <brajesh.sachan@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:43PM (#13638953) Homepage

    There was a recent article [sfgate.com] on the same topic in SF chronicle.

    One of the compelling argument was "If the Chinese custom is to make children work or to kill women, you wouldn't do it," said Julien Pain, head of the Internet Freedom Desk at Reporters Without Borders.

    I wonder where should the line be drawn.
  • by dominion ( 3153 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:43PM (#13638956) Homepage
    If ever the US government took a sharp turn towards authoritarianism, we can assume that no large US corporation would take a stand against it. In fact, these will be the first organizations to tow the line, like the spineless Iraqi politicians who, while dissidents were being led out and shot by Hussein, responded by standing up and declaring their allegience.

    IBM's role in the holocaust had nothing to do with a shared ideal with Nazism, and everything to do with the fact that dirty money spends just as well as anything.

    And there's usually more of it.
    • You make a very good point, and I agree with you completely.

      I just wanted to point out:

      "In fact, these will be the first organizations to tow the line "

      To "toe the line" is to obey; to "tow the line" is how one takes down an AT-AT.
  • I wonder what happens if all those Chinese Yahoo users start getting emails from all over the world detailing the things they would like to know about their own government. How much can Yahoo actually filter? If it was as plentiful as spam, surely the message would start getting through. What message? Pick one. I'm sure that international headlines about the Chinese government would be a good start. Chinese ex-pats should be able to tell people. Can't we get spammers to do something good once? The power of
  • Unfortunately, since Yahoo isn't a government-run business they're not bound by any kind of code of ethics. The company is only bound by the ethical decisions that the owners and/or board of directors decide when making large business decisions.

    As long as they're not doing anything illegal, then in a free-market system we, as consumers, have no option but to not buy their product. That is, if we object to their policies.

    It's up to us.
  • This is new? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Crixus ( 97721 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @02:53PM (#13639014)
    Since when in this modern production age hasn't this been the case? China had almost always had "Most Favored Nation" trading status with us, even when their tank treads were rolling over protesting college students.

    And while American corporations MAY want access to their markets now that they are growing as consumers, were that market not growing, corporations would be perfectly happy to only exploit the Chinese labor force to make cheaper widgets.

    Once again showing that the US could give a RATS ASS about democracy. All ourt leaders care about is serving their corporate masters and opening foreign markets to exploitation.
    • by WilliamSChips ( 793741 ) <full DOT infinity AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday September 24, 2005 @03:05PM (#13639080) Journal
      This is the US Government Test for seeing if a nation is our friend or not:

      Is the nation's leader anti-communist?
      If yes, the nation is probably our friend.
      If no, go to next question.

      Does the nation allow US Corporations to help them exploit their citizens?
      If yes, it is definitely our friend.
      If no, then they are our evil commie terrorist enemy, and must be destroyed in the name of FREEDOM(of US corporations to make as much money as possible) and DEMOCRACY(of US corporations to decide on what the government should do).
  • Should it be really surprising that they do this? They're going to turn their back on a country that is 20% of the world's population?
  • by ctwxman ( 589366 ) <me@@@geofffox...com> on Saturday September 24, 2005 @03:07PM (#13639092) Homepage
    There was an editorial piece in the New York Times which pointed out Yahoo's Hong Kong subsidiary responded to the Chinese government's request. Under the current law, Hong Kong is still autonomous in this regard. That subsidiary was under no more legal control of the Chinese than Yahoo's home office in the United States.

    Here's another similar take [theepochtimes.com] from Guo Guoting, an attorney

    Lawyer Guo has practiced law in China for over 20 years. He believes that, "Yahoo! Inc. is not under any legal obligation to 'conform to the laws of the countries in which they operate,' as was claimed by Jerry Yang." As a law expert, Guo explained that, "Yahoo! Inc. is obligated to first obey International Law. If the International Law happens to be in conflict with the laws in China or with the CCP's strategies, then the International Law should take precedence, which is an internationally acknowledged principle. China is a signatory of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and of the International Covenant on Human Rights. Shi Tao simply exercised his right to the freedom of expression by sending mail. In addition, he was legitimately practicing his profession, not committing a crime. Consequently, Yahoo! Inc. has no legal obligation to cooperate with the government. The legal entity of Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) is not in China, so it is not obligated to operate within the laws of China or to cooperate with the Chinese police."
  • It's only safe to do business in China if they need you more than you need them.
  • And don't forget Cisco - they're the ones who provided the hardware etc. for China's nation-wide firewall, after all. I'm sure they made a pretty penny with helping curtail Chinese internet users' freedom that way...
  • "If we were to announce today that we intend to hang all capitalists tomorrow, they would trip over each other trying to sell us the rope."

    Vladimir Lenin (or so they say...)

    Capitalism just suck, in the name of economic freedom personnal freedom need to be set asside because they are bad for the economy. Although I believe communism also suck for many other reasons (there is more to life than capitalism OR communism, a huge grey area in between and quite a lot of space before reaching boundaries, heck we cou
    • Capitalism just suck, in the name of economic freedom personnal freedom need to be set asside because they are bad for the economy.

      Because economic freedom, freed market capitalism, requires a voluntary exchange, it can't exist without personal freedom.

      • You obviously are wrong since our freedoms are constantly being trampled for the good of the economy...

        witty comment don't change anything about it, have you even read the thread subject...
        • You obviously are wrong since our freedoms are constantly being trampled for the good of the economy...

          How hard is it to understand a freemarket requires freedom? If rights are being trampled for the economy then said economy isn't a freemarket.

          have you even read the thread subject...

          I've read it and understood it, have you? Is there a problem in understanding it?

  • is the fact that this article is coming from TechZone and not NYTimes or the Washington Post.
  • What About Google? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak ( 773371 ) <obsessivemathsfreak AT eircom DOT net> on Saturday September 24, 2005 @03:32PM (#13639209) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how Google are operating in China. I think they'll have to change their slogan to, "Don't be Evil (may not apply in some jurisdictions)".

    Who are we kidding. Private companies will gladly sell out and kowtow to anyone as long as it helps them rake in the cash. Companies don't care if China never becomes a democracy, in fact they probably prefer it the way things are.

    Personally, I feel the Chinese model is so attractive to business that pretty soon people in western nations will begin to lose their rights as companies demand more and more harmonisation with the superior Chinese model.

    It seems capitalism can achieve what the soviets could not.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @03:33PM (#13639211)
    Microsoft has blocked users of its MSN site from using the terms 'freedom,' 'democracy'

    Chinese users just have to learn how to start searching for fr33dom and dem0cr@cy. After all, that's only one step beyond searching for p0rn.

  • A Guardian opinion piece on the subject: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,156847 9 ,00.html [guardian.co.uk] The whole idea of coorporations spreading freedom is simple sillyness - Corporations have evolved to make themselves rich, and any freedom they spread is a coincidental side effect. Market organisms have a life of their own, and their morality is based on dollar values, not virtuous conduct. The ultimate optimum state for a company isn't a democracy, but a tyrannical dictatorship where all wealth is directe
  • The people to call Yahoo to account for this...

    ...are their shareholders. If you are a shareholder in Yahoo, this is your time to do your moral duty.

  • Journalist Shi Tao was jailed and sentenced to 10 years in prison for "illegally sending state secrets abroad." The secrets that he revealed were information his newspaper received from the state propaganda department about how they could cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. He was identified because he had used Yahoo!'s free email service for which Yahoo! turned over log files to authorities that were later tracked back to his computer.

    Message to Yahoo's top executives: Please tu
  • by cpu_fusion ( 705735 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @04:13PM (#13639519)
    I see a few Chinese apologists in this thread, and I invite anyone to have their own opinions, but I'm going to talk about reality here, and it is a cold and harsh reality:

    Nixon, facing down the Soviets, began a policy of economic entanglement with China. China was willing to move away from communism towards limited capitalism, but NOT towards democracy. Concerned by an arms race with China, wishing to put some ideological distance between the USSR and China, and in some part, driven by US corporate interests, Nixon launched us on a path which has lead to the consequences discussed in this article: when we do business with China, it is not unlike doing business with Nazi Germany. (Oh no, I invoked Godwin's law, but it is not out of order here.)

    By tangling our economic system with China's, America received incredibly cheap labor, and the totalitarian elite in China received great wealth. America conveniently outsourced a lot of blue collar jobs to a country which didn't treat the worker as lavishly as we had to, which kicked organized labor in this country in the gnads, and was basically a similar exodus of jobs to what techies have experienced with India. We got (unethically) cheap labor, and the Chinese elite got rich. Some of this wealth trickled down, but you can be sure that in a non-democratic society, there have not been the mechanisms by which the poor could force some change in wealth distribution.

    Nixon's, (and subsequent presidents'), not-so-secret policy towards China has been to hope that a wealthy middle-class would emerge and overthrow the wealthy elite. That has not happened. Look at the masacre in 1989 if you want an example of how easily totalitarian governments can keep control. Nothing has changed except the depth of corruption. In fact, China has actually GROWN in terms of the territory it administers, now able to command the lives of those in Hong Kong, for example. Nixon's policy has FAILED.

    The average Chinese worker is a wage slave to American corporations. America exploits them. There is no other way to look at it, in my opinion. Democratic reform has not occured. The only real change has been that we are now dangerously dependent on the Chinese.

    This dependency is very real, and very dangerous today. Look at our situation with North Korea. It is obvious the Chinese are not exerting the pressure they could wield there. Remember that train that blew up as it was going to make its way out of NK into China? What do you think that train was associated with carrying? How do you think nuke secrets made it to NK from Pakistan? By boat in international waters? No way! Through China. The Chinese have secretly been encouraging nuclear proliferation because they would rather we got into a nuke war with some minor player, like Pakistan, NK, or Iran. They would rather some other country, by proxy, took the punches and dished it out on us. If we are hurt by a nuke, China will be helped, ESPECIALLY in relation to Taiwan.

    The Chinese government is our true enemy, and the people of China need to be liberated.

    As an American, I want to see our government disinvest as quickly as it can from China. We should shift that investment into India and other countries with functioning democracies.

    We need to punish and isolate the Chinese now before it is too late.

    • Won't work.

      Economic interdependence will help keep peace. Isolationism won't.

      Progress advances over time. You can't expect it to happen overnight.
      • Economic interdependence will help keep peace. Isolationism won't.

        The peace is an illusion, in my opinion. Our own government has cited the collusion of the Chinese government with the proliferation of WMD between Iran, Pakistan, and NK. It's in a PDF I replied to a sibling reply of yours, if you'd care to read it. PM Chamberlain had guarantees of peace too, but peace is meaningless if it is only the calculated prelude to war. And with China, I believe they merely want "war by proxy." With NK, they may
    • Given that China's trade surplus with the US is a relatively significant percentage of their GDP, wouldn't anything that hurts the US hurt them too?
      • Given that China's trade surplus with the US is a relatively significant percentage of their GDP, wouldn't anything that hurts the US hurt them too?

        That's a great question, and it hits at the heart the policy's assumptions.

        You have to define who the "them" is that would be hurt by something happening to the U.S. In China, there are two "thems". There are (1) the people in government, the unelected "party". (2) The wealthy businessmen who are outside of government, but certainly connected to it. And (3)
  • Put this [google-watch.org] on your website and title it "The Year of the Rat."
  • by DrIdiot ( 816113 ) on Saturday September 24, 2005 @06:14PM (#13640439)
    Half of it is the government, but half of it is the people.

    I'm an American born Chinese whose parents are from Taiwan. I have friends who are Chinese from China who've moved here, and I'll be damned if all of them oppose the Chinese government.

    Sure, you've got a large number of people in China who want democracy, who want elected officials and a say in government. But you've also got a large number of people that are either so caught up in nationalism to notice or sincerely don't believe it's that bad. For a change from totalitarianism to democracy to occur, the idea of change has to be internally ubiquitous.

    When you've got a Chinese telling me that the Taiwanese form of government is worse than the Chinese form of government, we've got a problem here. Although the Taiwanese form of government may not be perfect, especially in its beginnings, at least officials are elected by the people, at least it's a multi-party system, and wow, there isn't this rampant totalitarian censorship and control exerted over the people.

    When you've got people pointing to the Chinese legislature as a legitimate form of legislature, that's a problem. A one-party legislature is not legitimate, it's a pathetic excuse.

    When you've got people saying that there should be a balance between control and freedom (which isn't false at all - for instance, you don't have the freedom to murder) and pointing to CHINA as an example of this, we have a problem. Especially when that same person cites the PATRIOT Act as a problem in the United States.

    When you've got people failing to recognize that China is rampant with censorship and has a foreign policy that's worse as ours (Tibet, anyone?), that's a problem. They simply fail to recognize this as a human rights violation. Yet when we bomb Iraqi civilians, they're completely opposed to it, citing human rights. So when the United States kills people it's wrong but when China does it's not? Bullshit. Nationalism at it's peak.

    These aren't conservative or totalitarianistic-thinking people either. In America's terms, they'd be considered liberal. It's just when it comes to the subject of China, they're automatically in support.

    And it's so hard to show them how absurd this mode of thinking is.

    Right now, I have little confidence in the Chinese people to change their government. I also have little confidence in foreign nations to have the ability to change the Chinese government. Not only that, I oppose any attempt by any nation other than China itself to change the Chinese government. Change must come from within. And it doesn't seem like it's coming anytime soon. Tienmen Square shut dissenters up pretty damn good.

    You can't blame Yahoo or Google for complying with the Chinese government. If they don't comply, guess what? They're going to be blocked from China. Lot of good that'll do then, right? All those websites about democracy are going to do the Chinese real good if they can't even get there. At least with search query censorship, a clever search may yield good results. When blocking the entire search engine, that whole mode of finding information is lost.

  • It concerns me that the Chinese government might spread their control of companies to locations outside of their territory. For example, they could ask Google to stop linking to any negative articles about China or its human rights record. In exchange Google would continue to have access to the vast Chinese market. If not, they would have to pull out which would loose them a lot of potential revenue. Wall Street would likely demand that they bow down to the Chinese government.
  • As an employee of a huge multinational corporation based out of Europe, I have to relate the following rumor. The vice president of the China group was let go (fired) a couple of years ago because he was caught trying to marry a fifth wife while visiting the US. He claimed he didn't do anything wrong as each of his earlier four wives were each in different countries.

There must be more to life than having everything. -- Maurice Sendak