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Yahoo May Be Facing Suit Over Chinese Journalist 80

WindBourne wrote to mention a story covered by Forbes, detailing a possible suit against Yahoo! as a result of their involvement in a Chinese Journalist's jailing. From the article: "Zhang Yu, representing the family of Shi Tao, said they were considering taking Yahoo Hong Kong Holdings to court either here or in the United States. 'We believe what (Yahoo) did was illegal so we are considering taking Yahoo to court,' Zhang told reporters, adding that Yahoo had refused to discuss the matter with him. "
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Yahoo May Be Facing Suit Over Chinese Journalist

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  • Weird! (Score:1, Interesting)

    considering taking Yahoo Hong Kong Holdings to court either here or in the United States.

    Yahoo (along with IBM, cisco, MS, google, etc) are behaving badly in China - but WTF? Why in a US court?

    Makes no sense
    • Re:Weird! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It makes complete sense. Yahoo! is a US company, and as such is, or ought to be, bound by US law, under which the lawsuit is more likely to get a fair trial. Rather than China, where dissidents are treated in various ways, including (but not limited to) being run over with tanks. At least when the US government wants to jail dissidents without trial, it creates jails outside of the US to confine them in so that it can claim that it's actions aren't bound by US law... hmm, on second thought, you may be ri
      • It makes complete sense. Yahoo! is a US company, and as such is, or ought to be, bound by US law

        No. if you are doing business in a country (not just selling a product), you are bound by the laws of that country. There was a recent case here in Canada where a U.S. company tried to fire an employee who got pregnant because they didn't want to pay the maternity leave (a year here in Canada). Apparently this was legal in the companies home state but not here. She sued and (rightly) won.

    • Why in a US court?

      Because the pay-outs are higher.
      Regardless of the reasons for or the effects of the US's litigation-happiness and the often insane levels of fines imposed, the fact remains that any competent lawyer should be looking for a US-angle in order to maximise the benefits for their clients.
      Equally, any competent corporate lawyer should use the maximum of the law that they can to prevent a case being pursued in the States. If that m
  • by Dorsai65 ( 804760 ) <dkmerriman@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 31, 2006 @01:53PM (#15035868) Homepage Journal

    That would serve as an example that hits those companies where it'll get their attention: in their wallets.

    All of them claim they're in China because they have to be 'responsible' to their shareholders and make a profit; if the bad press from giving up names of 'dissidents' or other 'troublemakers' doesn't bother them, then the lost cash that results from lawsuits may convince them that morals and ethics aren't just abstract concepts.

    All any of Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo! had to do was get creative about having trouble finding/retrieving the info the Chinese government was after, and delay it for as long as possible; surely they have some experience with that in dealing with the Chinese officials?

    • I believe the argument is that it is better for Google, et al, to operate in these spaces than not operate at all. That some, albeit limited, information is better than none.

      The argument they make is that packing up and going home so that a home-grown site can do the same is no better, and probably worse.
      • The argument they make is that packing up and going home so that a home-grown site can do the same is no better, and probably worse.

        Isn't that like saying "Well, your honour, if I hadn't murdered him, he'd eventually have died anyway..."?

    • The United States has 2 laws that apply directly to the potential lawsuit against Yahoo! [pbs.org]. Below are the 2 laws.

      1. U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789
      2. Torture Victim Prevention Act (TVPA) of 1991

      The family of the reporter arrested by the Chinese Gestapo can sue Yahoo! under both laws. They enable foreigners, in an American court, to sue foreign entities which commit violations of human rights.

      I have one word of advice to the family. Namely, the family can (under both laws) and should sue Jerry

  • Grammar (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "...detailing a possible suit against Yahoo! as a result of their..."

    "!" ends a sentence. A capital letter is necessary for the next sentence.
  • What if (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bob3141592 ( 225638 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @02:01PM (#15035953) Homepage
    What if China only asked to see all of Yahoo's data so it could study how people looked at poolitically and sexually subversive sites in order to develop specifications for future filtering laws, and China then used that info to arrest dissidents. Could they still be sued for complying with China's laws?

    It'd make for an interesting precedent either way, wouldn't it?
    • What if China only asked to see all of Yahoo's data so it could study how people looked at poolitically and sexually subversive sites in order to develop specifications for future filtering laws, and China then used that info to arrest dissidents.

      Finally, someone understands the ramifications of that.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...but it won't make your T-Shirts or DVD Players any cheaper. Come on people! get off this and go to Wal-Mart and buy some Chinese made stuff. We can look away from the child labor and the insanely oppressive working conditions, can't we?

    Yahoo is just playing ball. Why don't you?

    Don't rock the boat or you just might have to buy a product made by Americans (Real ones, from America(TM))
  • It is forbidden (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Friday March 31, 2006 @02:07PM (#15035989)
    From the Chinese Constitution to 2004 [unibe.ch] here we have some selected excerpts.
    (Try to imagine this being read aloud to you through a megaphone.)

    Article 28 [Public Order] The State maintains public order and suppresses treasonable and other criminal activities that endanger State security; it penalizes actions that endanger public security and disrupt the socialist economy and other criminal activities, and punishes and reforms criminals.

    Article 40 [Correspondence] The freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens of the People's Republic of China are protected by law. No organization or individual may, on any ground, infringe upon the freedom and privacy of citizens' correspondence except in cases where, to meet the needs of state security or of investigation into criminal offenses, public security or procuratorial organs are permitted to censor correspondence in accordance with procedures prescribed by law.

    Article 41 [Freedom of Speech] (1) Citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary. Citizens have the right to make to relevant state organs complaints and charges against, or exposures of, any state organ or functionary for violation of the law or dereliction of duty; but fabrication or distortion of facts for the purpose of libel or frame-up is prohibited. (2) The state organ concerned must deal with complaints, charges or exposures made by citizens in a responsible manner after ascertaining the facts. No one may suppress such complaints, charges and exposure, or retaliate against the citizens making them. (3) Citizens who have suffered losses through infringement of their civic rights by any state organ or functionary have the right to compensation in accordance with the law.

    Article 53 [Obedience to the Constitution] Citizens of the People's Republic of China must abide by the Constitution and the law, keep state secrets, protect public property, and observe labor discipline and public order and respect social ethics.

    Article 54 [Integrity of the Motherland] It is the duty of citizens of the People's Republic of China to safeguard the security, honor, and interests of the motherland; they must not commit acts detrimental to the security, honor and interests of the motherland.
    • are procuratorial organs like tonsils or are they more like pipe organs?
    • Re:It is forbidden (Score:4, Insightful)

      by saihung ( 19097 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @03:20PM (#15036589)
      The Chinese constitution, like the American constitution, is vaguely worded on purpose. The government of the PRC can define "honor" and "security" any way it wants to produce the specific legal outcome it desires. The courts have no flexibility in interpreting this document, and it wouldn't matter if they did - court cases in China are basically decided before the opening statements are made, and incovenient laws or treaties are simply ignored if they stand in the way of the government's desired ruling.
      The more important question is whether the USA, a signatory of many covenants on human rights itself, is legally required to bring companies or individuals to task when they violate those laws abroad.
      • Of course they won't. The right wing leadership is silent on China's abysmal human rights record. China uses state *mandated* abortion on factory workers who get pregnant without a permit. Amazing how the voice of self-rightous moral indignation falls silent as soon as there's a buck to be made...
    • (Try to imagine this being read aloud to you through a megaphone.)

      It seems more appropriate to have this coming from a picture of a nice fellow on the wall of everyone's living rooms that has cameras for eyes.

      Doubleplus ungood.

  • There's only one word I can say to celebrate this.

    Yahoo!!!!!! :)
  • This seems like a backfired attempt by Yahoo to comply with the Chinese government, much in the same way Google is censoring search results. TFA doesn't go into detail why Yahoo released the information, how it was released, or to whom it was released, but my speculation is that the government possibly theatened to block Yahoo or take some other measure if they didn't reveal the information they wanted.
  • This will not work at all. It's like suing a company in Canada because it disconnected a custome following a DMCA take-down request. In both cases, the ISP followed the law. And you certainly can't be sued for doing something legal that happenned in another country!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just a few weeks ago they turned over an american who was storing some illegal images in his yahoo online storage. Yahoo killed ASE too. Death to yahoo!
  • devil's advocate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by enjahova ( 812395 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @02:26PM (#15036135) Homepage
    I am going to take an extremely unpopular position here, just to try and give people some perspective.

    The flamebait version is China's censorship is not a bad thing.

    Now to explain.

    China is a much different country than the United States (as an American I will be referring to the US exclusively, a lot applies to other free western nations). Our country was founded on the principles of individual liberties and freedom. 200 years ago we got a fresh start and set out to do things right, and for the most part its worked pretty well.

    Now lets look at China. This country has a written history of over 2000 years. In the last hundred years China has seen more revolution and social change than the U.S. ever has, even if you include the American Revolution. In the 1910s China overthrew their last Dynasty. What resulted was 10-20 years of civil war between regional warlords. Then communism came along, sweeping the nation with promises of food for everybody. They were opposed with the Nationalist party. 20 more years of civil war and struggle until the Nationalist party was forced to flee to Taiwan. Mao Zedong became president but had to step aside because of the political atmosphere. When he regained power in the late 60s he completely changed the country. The often quoted figures of 30million people dying because of reforms, combined with the systematic distruction of everything that represented Old Chinese Culture make him evil in the eyes of many. Yet he accomplished a lot of good for the country, uniting the people and restructuring the land.

    This is a very important point, one of the most important things in Chinese culture is unity of the country. (the South shall rise again! ;) This supercedes many concerns, as it is rooted in the 2000 year history.

    Since the Cultural Revolution many many changes have occured. Gaige Kaifang, or the Openness Policy was set into motion, and every year China moves closer and closer to a capitalist economy (In some ways it is indistinguishable).

    The point of talking about all the revolutions and societal change in the last hundred years is to understand that China is not stable. The people do not know where things are going, or if where they are going is truely a good thing (Like it or not, not everyone thinks us westerners are perfect).

    That said we can take a look at demographics for further evidence that we cannot judge the Chinese like we judge ourselves. The country is home to over 1.3 Billion people, hundreds of millions of which do not live in the cities. These country folk have enough trouble with running water and food, let alone electricity to worry about Google or Yahoo.

    The central government is very strong, and it does a lot to keep the infrastructure of China solid and the people fed. Furthermore, there are millions of people living in many cities. By the nature of cities ideas can spread very fast. The main concern of the government is stability, they dont want hundreds of thousands of protestors upsetting the core of the country because they want a luxury like democracy.

    Now that last statement is quite inflamatory, but think about it. We can have polarized debates here, we can have peta and the NRA, but the general stability of our country insures that millions of people arent going to hit the streets because of some nut with a megaphone.

    Now before you all call me facist, I truely believe in the freedom of information as the savior of this world. I believe what is going on is "not good" but I just want to illustrate that we cannot hold everyone to some of our standards and not others. When the Chinese have advanced their economy, and they are buying toys manufactured by American kids, perhaps then they will have all the wonderful freedoms you and I take for granted everyday.

    Until then we can only do our part, get educated. Understand that you cannot change entire cultures by force. Lead by example, and help out the PEOPLE that need help. You may disagree with these highly pu
    • Excellent and informative post. Thanks for taking the time to write it, since I am one to have a knee-jerk reaction all too often when it comes to censorship.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Ive just one word for this pathetic surrendermonkey-ish post:

      INDIA

      PS: I've never seen a more appropo title for a post: "Devil's Advocate". Hell you make a very good one, considering whose POV you're trying to advocate!
      • by enjahova ( 812395 )
        Unfortunately I have not spent as much energy learning about India's past, and I would appreciate it if you enlightened me on the subject.

        From the little I do know I presume you are referring to their reasonably successful conversion to democracy. The only comment I have on that now is that India was under colonized rule for a long while, and they switched to democracy the moment of their independance in 1945. I think this is a very large difference, and it is the type of oversimplification I was trying to
        • its true that india was under the political rule of British from arnd 1857 to 1948. India has a very long history itself ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_India [wikipedia.org]) and in the past 100 years it has had an equally dramatic revolution where it overthew the British yoke (arguably the most powerful in the world) with a non-violent peoples movement thats unprecedented in the history of mankind. To attribute the democratic achievements to British would be gross understatement. In which other country in the w
          • I appreciate the informative reply. I even agree with your point that a 1 billion person society needs communism rather than democracy. I think my feelings align with yours, not wanting a bloody revolution. My point is that the path to democracy might seem slow right now, but I think its on track.
            • I even agree with your point that a 1 billion person society needs communism rather than democracy ...when did i say that? i said " its not correct to say that a billion ppl society neeeds communism to bring its masses out of poverty and to make progress." At the same time i am amazed by the progress China and its ppl have achieved in such a short time much to envy of the world, all i am saying is that "communism" is NOT the only way of achieving progress.
              • I meant to say the opposite, my bad! What I mean is that I do believe in democracy, and that it can be done, its just that we cant just expect China to just drop everything all over again when they seem to be doing fine and making progress. sorry for the confusion.
    • No..no...no...no...I would never call you a fascist.

      You are a Corporate Fascist!!!

    • Great post! This post really highlights the differences between people with opinions and people with knowledge.

            Americans tend to compare China or other countries to the idealised form of US democracy they are tought via pop-culture. What they don't want to see is that American democracy is really pretty awful. The whole world should be looking for a better form of government because nobody seems to have it right.

      Kind Regards
    • The central government is very strong, and it does a lot to keep the infrastructure of China solid and the people fed. Furthermore, there are millions of people living in many cities. By the nature of cities ideas can spread very fast. The main concern of the government is stability, they dont want hundreds of thousands of protestors upsetting the core of the country because they want a luxury like democracy.

      Well the funny thing is that when these same inland Chineese move to Hong Kong, or to the United St

    • I'll take the bait.

      Your argument boils down to, "China is not politically stable, so it's okay for the government to violate basic human rights."

      That's bullshit.

    • Yeah, I could come up with some really great arguments about the value of the individual vs the value of the society, and of the sacrifice of the few for then enrichment of the lives of the many, maybe throw in a little dispassionate darwinianism with disclaimers that the species as a whole benifits from such things and end up making a compelling case for the nazi genocide of WWII... Doesn't make right, but sure does make a nice argument.
      • Yeah, I could come up with some really great arguments about the value of the individual vs the value of the society, and of the sacrifice of the few for then enrichment of the lives of the many, maybe throw in a little dispassionate darwinianism with disclaimers that the species as a whole benifits from such things and end up making a compelling case for the nazi genocide of WWII... Doesn't make right, but sure does make a nice argument.

        And You have triggered Godwin's Law, congrats :P
  • Somehow, I don't think US courts or laws, for that matter, amount to a hill of rice in the PRC. If what they did was in the PRC and was legal in the PRC then the lawsuit is baseless.

    This is sort of like the Iranian government trying the Danish paper in an Iranian court for the stupid drawings they published and expecting the ruling and sentence to matter anywhere but in Iran.
  • Pointless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by liangzai ( 837960 )
    The verdict was correct according to Chinese law (the crime was providing documents labeled with secrecy to foreign powers).

    Since China makes its owan laws, and since any company entering China needs to abide by those laws, there is little point in suing Yahoo. They did what they had to do, and Shi Tao knew what he was doing.

    The only way to change things is to change the laws of PRC. This is mainly a task for the Chinese people, but international pressure is also welcome (of an initiated sort that doesn't s
  • What could they sue Yahoo on? That a search engine that specializes in selling search information to ad companies would not tell information? So there's no expectation of privacy there, you may have some very stupid assumption that Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc will hold your privacy in more importance than you yourself do. Really, come on they are selling your information to others people, they're whole business model is about profiting off your personal information. That's before you even get into the whole
  • It's the only way thy will understand Human right is not for sale. Let's finance it now, this could be a great warning to the Microsoft and Googles of this world!

The only difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman is that the car salesman knows he's lying.

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