Yahoo Inc. may have helped Chinese police to identify an Internet writer who was subsequently jailed for four years for subversion in the third such case, an advocacy group for journalists said on Wednesday.
News implicating Yahoo in the imprisonment of Jiang Lijun in 2003 surfaced on the eve of a summit between Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Bush in Washington.
It was the third such case involving the U.S. Internet giant.
Yahoo was accused of providing electronic records to Chinese authorities that led to an eight-year prison term for Li Zhi for subversion in 2003 and of helping to identify Shi Tao, who was accused of leaking state secrets abroad and jailed last year for 10 years.
It's time for Congress to act. Harsh penalties should be imposed on any company that assists the Chinese government in suppressing free speech. After all, I thought we were supposed to be exporting democracy, not stifling it.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said it had obtained a copy of the verdict showing that Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) helped Chinese police to identify Jiang by confirming that the e-mail account ZYMZd2002 had been used jointly by Jiang and another pro-democracy activist Li Yibing.
"Little by little we are piecing together the evidence for what we have long suspected, that Yahoo! is implicated in the arrest of most of the people that we have been defending," the group said.
"We hope this Internet giant will not, as it has each time it has been challenged previously, hide behind its local partner, Alibaba, to justify its behavior. Whatever contract it has with this partner, the e-mail service is marketed as Yahoo!," it said.
The case is the latest in a string of examples that highlight the friction between profits and principles for Internet companies doing business in China, the world's number-two Internet market.
Web search giant Google Inc. has come under fire for saying it would block politically sensitive terms on its new China site, bowing to conditions set by Beijing.
In December, Microsoft Corp. shut down a blog at MSN Spaces belonging to outspoken blogger Michael Anti under Chinese government orders.
Sad that when profits and principles collide, the former always wins.