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Disappointing testimony to US congressional hearing by Yahoo! executives

Reporters Without Borders is disappointed by yesterday’s testimony by Yahoo! chief executive officer Jerry Yang and the company’s vice president and senior general counsel, Michael Callahan, to a US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee hearing on Callahan’s earlier controversial statements to Congress about the company’s involvement in the arrest of Chinese journalist Shi Tao in 2005. The hearing was attended by Gao Qinshen, Shi’s mother, and Yu Ling, the wife of Wang Xiaoning, a cyber-dissident arrested in 2003 who, like Shi, was convicted on information provided by Yahoo!.

“We take note of the aplogies that Yahoo!’s executives gave to the families of Shi and Wang, but we regret that they did not announce any concrete measures to avoid being involved in the arrest of Internet users and dissidents again,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Yang and Callahan failed to seize the opportunity they were offered to demonstrate transparency, and they were not convincing about the reasons for their lie in February 2006,” the press freedom organisation added. “A humanitarian gesture in favour of the families of the imprisoned cyber-dissidents is welcome, but Yahoo! has not succeeded in dispelling all the doubts about its determination to stop collaborating with the Chinese security services.”

Yesterday’s hearing highlighted the need for the US congress to quickly adopt a proposed Global Online Freedom Act, which has just been approved by the House foreign affairs committee at the initiative of representative Christopher Smith. When Callahan testified to a congressional hearing in February 2006, he claimed that Yahoo! knew nothing about the nature of the Chinese government’s investigation into Shi and was just complying with the law when it handed over information. But the Dui Hua Foundation subsequently demonstrated that Yahoo! China had been notified of the charges against Shi in April 2004.

For the first time, Yahoo!’s executives met after yesterday’s hearing with the relatives of Shi and Wang, telling them that they wanted to obtain the cyber-dissidents’ release. Pressed by several representatives including foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Lantos, who voiced amazement that Yahoo! still had not contacted the cyber-dissidents’ families, Yang promised during the hearing that the company would examine the possibility of providing them with humanitarian assistance.

Several representatives urged Yahoo! to use its “market ability” to bring about “positive change” in online free expression in China.

Date posted: November 7, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 2710