By ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press Writer
A French media watchdog said Tuesday that information provided by
Internet powerhouse Yahoo Inc. helped Chinese authorities convict and
jail a journalist who had written an e-mail about press restrictions.
The criticism from Reporters Without Borders marks the latest instance
in which a prominent high-tech company has faced accusations of
cooperating with Chinese authorities to gain favor in a country that's
expected to become an Internet gold mine.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo and two of its biggest rivals, Google
Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, previously have come under attack for
censoring online news sites and Web logs, or blogs, that include
content that China's communist government wants to suppress.
Reporters Without Borders ridiculed Yahoo, saying it was becoming even
cozier with the Chinese government by allowing itself to become a
police informant in a case that led to the recent conviction of
Chinese journalist Shi Tao.
"Does the fact that this corporation operates under Chinese law free
it from all ethical considerations?" Reporters Without Borders said in
a statement. "How far will it go to please Beijing?"
Pauline Wong, head of marketing for the Hong Kong office, said
Wednesday that the company had no comment on the statement.
"We're still looking at it," Wong said.
Reporters Without Borders said court papers showed that Yahoo Holdings
(Hong Kong) Ltd. gave Chinese investigators information that helped
them trace a personal Yahoo e-mail allegedly containing state secrets
to Tao's computer. Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. is part of Yahoo's
Shi, a former journalist for the financial publication Contemporary
Business News, was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for
illegally providing state secrets to foreigners. Reporters Without
Borders described Shi as a "good journalist who has paid dearly for
trying to get the news out."
His conviction stemmed from an e-mail he sent containing his notes on
a government circular that spelled out restrictions on the media.
"This probably would not have been possible without the cooperation of
Yahoo," said Lucie Morillon, a Washington, D.C.-based spokeswoman for
Reporters Without Borders.
Shi's arrest in November at his home in the northwestern province of
Shanxi prompted appeals for his release by activists, including the
international writers group PEN.
A number of Chinese journalists have faced similar charges of
violating vague security laws as communist leaders struggle to
maintain control of information in the burgeoning Internet era.
Yahoo and its major rivals have been expanding their presence in China
in hopes of reaching more of the country's population as the Internet
becomes more ingrained in their daily lives.
Just last month, Yahoo paid $1 billion for a 40 percent stake in
China's biggest online commerce firm, Alibaba.com.
Meanwhile, Google and Microsoft are locked in a bitter legal battle
over a former Microsoft engineer who Google hired in July to oversee
the opening of a research center in China.
AP Business Writer Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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