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Internet giant Yahoo! joins Microsoft and Google in bending to the Chinese autocracy, only this time they helped jail an activist for freedom in the nominally Communist nation. The London Times reports that Yahoo! coughed up records used to send a dissident to prison for ten years:
THE American internet company Yahoo! provided evidence to Chinese police that enabled them to imprison one of its users, according to allegations that came to light yesterday.
The disclosure marked the second time in months that the company had been accused of helping China to put someone in jail. Li Zhi, a civil servant, was imprisoned on charges of trying to subvert state power after he criticised corruption and tried to join the dissident China Democracy Party. ...
Yahoo! said that it could not comment on an individual case. However, it said that it turned over to governments only legally required information. Mary Osako, at Yahoo! headquarters in California, said: “We would not know whether a demand for information focused on murder, kidnapping or another crime.” She added that Yahoo! regarded the internet as a positive force in China.
The journalist Shi Tao may not agree. He was jailed for ten years last year on charges of leaking state secrets after Yahoo! supplied Chinese police with his user identification.
Julien Pain, an internet expert with the Paris-based Reporters without Borders, believes that the revelation that Yahoo! had co-operated in two cases could be the tip of an iceberg. He said: “The problem is how many (cases) do we not know about? Probably dozens, given how hard it is to get information from China. Yahoo! should release a list of people they helped to jail.”
What, besides the temptation of the cash, causes American ventures to cave to Chinese demands in curtailing free speech and free expression? These companies made their billions here taking advantage of the capitalist system of free enterprise, and their success should be applauded. However, now that they have cornered the Western markets on their slices of the Internet, they've turned themselves into tools -- in every sense of the word -- for dictators to enforce the antitheses of the freedoms that allowed them to exist in the first place.
Have these corporate managers no shame at all? Do they feel proud of their success in China, knowing it comes at the expense of courageous people like Li Zhi and Shi Tao, among others about which we have not yet heard? How long will these companies and their major stockholders continue to sell out freedom and its foot soldiers in order to kiss up to the Chinese government?
Janis Joplin once sang, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." It appears that attitude has infected the Internet giants, who value the blood money they get from helping to oppress the Chinese people than the freedom that gave them the opportunity to exist. Shame, shame, shame.
UPDATE: Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project has more thoughts on this -- he's been covering the Chinese front of the Internet for some time. Be sure to scroll through his many posts.Sphere It View blog reactions
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