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Yahoo! criticises repression of Internet users in China

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has hailed Yahoo! Inc's belated recognition of the dramatic consequences of its cooperation with the Chinese police after the US corporation sent some news organisations in Hong Kong a short statement on 11 June 2007 criticising the Chinese government's repressive policies.

"Those in charge of Yahoo! must now, as a matter of urgency, intercede with the Chinese authorities to obtain the release of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning, and other people who have been imprisoned because of what it did," the press freedom organisation said.

The California-based company said in its statement, "Yahoo! is dismayed that citizens in China have been imprisoned for expressing their political views on the Internet." It reiterated its position that it was obliged to comply with China's laws, but it added that it condemned "punishment of any activity internationally recognised as free expression."

The statement was issued after journalist Shi Tao's family announced that it was filing a complaint against Yahoo! in the United States for providing the Chinese police with information that helped to convict and imprison him (see IFEX alerts of 7 June and 9 March 2007, 29 November, 12 and 11 July 2006, and others). His mother said she would fight to the end to prove her son's innocence.

On 29 May, the family's lawsuit was added to the one already filed before a California court by the family of dissident Wang Xiaoning, who has been held since 2003 and who, like Shi, was convicted on the basis of information supplied by Yahoo!.

US companies would be banned from cooperating with repressive regimes under a proposed Global Online Freedom Act, which Representative Christopher Smith resubmitted to the US congress in January.

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