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Yahoo the whistleblower Internet giant gave China details of writer
[February 10, 2006]

Yahoo the whistleblower Internet giant gave China details of writer

(Daily Mail Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)INTERNET firm Yahoo was last night accused of caving in to China's secret police in the interests of profits.

The search engine supplied Beijing with the web and email details of a writer who was subsequently jailed for eight years for 'subverting state power', it emerged.

Li Zhin's only crimes were to write an online article criticising corruption among local government officials and to fill in an application to join the dissident China Democracy Party - a stern critic of the communist authorities.

Yesterday, a respected international media watchdog claimed that Mr Li, a 35-year- old former civil servant, could not have been jailed without Yahoo's cooperation with Chinese public security agents.

The group Reporters Without Borders said 81 journalists and authors are in prison in China for criticising the government as they try to lift the bamboo curtain on the Internet.

They include 37-year-old journalist Shi Tao, who was jailed for ten years last April for 'divulging state secrets abroad'.

Mr Shi, who worked for Beijing's Contemporary Business News, emailed newspapers and television stations around the world the text of a government message sent to Chinese newspaper editors warning them not to report demonstrations on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The latest Yahoo revelation came a week after Google was caught in the middle of a free speech row after it was revealed that it colluded with Chinese authorities to censor access to the Internet. The world's two biggest search engines, who both have their Chinese language operations based in Hong Kong, deny access to websites which the communist government deems unsuitable.

Rapidly-expanding China is the second-biggest Internet market in the world after the U.S.

Yahoo last year earned GBP 1.15billion. Google earned less - GBP 800million - but is growing so fast that its market value of GBP68billion is twice as big as Yahoo's.

Critics accused both web companies of betraying the Internet's principles of freedom of information and expression in favour of potential profits in the Far East.

Reporters Without Borders said: 'We were sure the case of Shi Tao, who was jailed on the basis of Yahoo-supplied data, was not the only one.

'Now we know Yahoo works regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police.

'The firm says it simply responds to requests from the authorities for data without ever knowing what it will be used for. But this argument no longer holds water.

'Yahoo certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals.

'The company must answer for what it is doing.' Yahoo and Google have been invited to attend a U.S. Congressional-hearing nextWednesday into the ethical responsibilities of Internet firms.

Yahoo spokesman Mary Osako said the company was looking into the allegations.

She said: 'Governments are not required to inform service providers why they are seeking certain information and typically do not do so.' She added that Yahoo believes the Internet has a positive influence in China by opening the country to outside influences.

In December, Microsoft shut down a blog (an online diary) at MSN Spaces on Chinese government orders.

China is also trying to limit what news its 1.3billion inhabitants can access. A notice issued to Chineselanguage websites by the Beijing Internet Propaganda Management Office this week listed media sites it said were carrying unlawful information.

It warned: 'Do not use what they report on political news.' Several editors have been sacked for ignoring the edict.

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