Suing Yahoo for Abetting Chinese Gov't


The Wash Times reports on the story of Wang Xiaoning, who "has been sitting in a Chinese prison since September 2002. He is serving a 10-year sentence for using the Internet to advocate democracy" via a series of articles critical of the Beijing regime.

His wife, Yu Ling, is in the U.S. looking for legal representation to go after Yahoo, which she claims provided evidence key to convicting her husband in Chinese courts. "I have to help my husband," she told the Times. "I hope Yahoo is punished and the other companies learn from it."

It seems highly unlikely that the case will be successful. Among other things, Yahoo is a minority partner in its own China business. But the Times lays out some interesting questions:

The China dilemma—the question of whether a company should, as a cost of doing business in a repressive but potentially lucrative country, cooperate with government officials and agree to censorship—is an issue that Internet companies in particular are grappling with and not unique to Yahoo. Rival Internet companies Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are required to filter content in China as well….

"The question that is really up in the air is how much you can associate a private corporation with the actions of a government," says Barry Carter, a Georgetown University Law Center professor who has written casebooks on international law.

In one pending case, known as the "apartheid lawsuit," up to 100 U.S. and international companies are being sued for selling equipment to South Africa's white dictatorship and lending it money. The case, currently on appeal, says corporations such as IBM helped the racist regime stay in power.

"The companies in a way are a proxy for the government because you can't sue the government," Mr. Carter adds.

At this point, Yahoo says only that it "condemns punishment of any activity recognized as freedom of expression. We have expressed our strong feelings about such actions to the Chinese government as well as the U.S. State Department."

Whole thing here.