Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More on Yahoo and Shi Tao case

YahooYahoo's role in releasing information to PRC authorities leading to the conviction of journalist Shi Tao, previously discussed on this blog, continues to dog the company. Now Liu Xiaobo, described by the Financial Times as a "veteran dissident", has written an open letter to Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang criticizing Yahoo for its actions (Financial Times report here). The Financial Times report states in part:

"Major foreign companies should not be helping the Chinese government to limit freedom of speech on the internet," Mr Liu told the Financial Times. "This is shameless."

Mr Yang, who recently sealed a $1bn (€830m, £570m) link-up with the Chinese commerce website Alibaba, confirmed last month Yahoo had assisted the action against Mr Shi, but said it had no choice but to provide information about him as part of a "legal process".

Yahoo on Monday refused to comment on the contents of the letter. A company spokeswoman at its base in Silicon Valley said it only released information to the authorities "when legally compelled to do so, and then only in a way that complies with both local laws and our privacy policy".

It has been pointed out in many commentaries that the "local laws" to which Yahoo's Hong Kong subsidiary - the company that released the information - are subject are the laws of Hong Kong, not those of mainland China, at least with respect to police demands for information. It is not impossible that Yahoo's Hong Kong subsidiary could have been subject in some way to PRC law, but so far Yahoo has not explained how.

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