Yahoo accused of helping China jail dissident in 2003


BEIJING -- In a development expected to put more pressure on foreign high-tech companies operating in China, a free-speech group yesterday accused Yahoo of providing information to the Chinese government that helped it arrest and imprison a cyber-dissident in 2003.

The report by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Chinese court documents show that Yahoo helped authorities identify Li Zhi through his e-mail address and user name. The former civil servant from Dazhou in southwestern China was sentenced in December 2003 for "inciting subversion" after posting essays detailing local corruption.

Yahoo officials were not immediately available to comment. The company has acknowledged handing over such information in the past, saying it must obey the laws of the country in which it operates.

In September, the press-freedom group accused Yahoo of providing information that led to last year's 10-year prison term for journalist Shi Tao.

Reporters Without Borders called on Yahoo to release a list of all cyber-dissidents about which it has given information to Chinese authorities.

Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Cisco are under growing pressure over their business practices in China. The four companies have been asked to appear at a the U.S. House of Representatives hearing Wednesday to address the ethical responsibilities of Internet firms.

Critics say the companies are ingratiating themselves with a police state in their headlong quest for profits. The companies say they are complying with the law.

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