09/14/2005, 00.00
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Anti-Yahoo! campaign begins

The internet multinational is harshly criticised for passing personal information about one of its subscribers, a journalist, to Chinese authorities. Thanks to Yahoo!'s cooperation Beijing was able to arrest and sentence the man to ten years in jail.

Hangzhou (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Various human rights groups are calling for a boycott of internet giant Yahoo!  after it supplied information to the Chinese government that led to a ten-year jail conviction of Shi Tao, a mainland Chinese journalist.

According to human rights watchdog Privacy International, a boycott would send a clear message to Yahoo!, while Reporters Without Borders said it would ask institutional shareholders to raise the issue of the company's behaviour with its management.

Several posters to internet forums and blog sites criticised Yahoo! for its actions and promised to quit using the company"s services.

"I do not intend to click on Yahoo ever again, and I'm urging everyone I know to do the same," one internet poster said.

This is not the first time a foreign internet company has come under fire for its actions in China. Critics have blasted Microsoft for censoring words such as "freedom" and "democracy" in its blogging service MSN Spaces, while Google has been accused of removing sensitive pages from its search index. But the Yahoo case is different because the company's actions resulted in the imprisonment of a journalist accused of passing state secrets via e-mail.

Yahoo said it had no choice but to comply with the law when its Hong Kong unit was asked to turn over details to mainland authorities concerning the journalist's e-mail account huoyan1989@yahoo.com.cn.

Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang was unapologetic when reporters pressed the issue during an internet conference held in Hangzhou on the weekend.

"To be doing business in China or anywhere else in the world we have to comply with local law. I will not put our employees at risk," Mr Yang said.

Lawrence Sussman, a lawyer in Beijing, said failure to comply with the government's demands would have had dire legal ramifications for Yahoo!'s mainland executives.

To most observers, Yahoo!'s willingness to co-operate with government attempts to control the internet seems to indicate the company—along with other foreign players—has put profit ahead of other values, such as freedom of expression and respect for human rights. 

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See also
Don't look for 'freedom' and 'democracy' on Microsoft's China-based internet portal
China first in the world for jailed journalists
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